Understanding context: A qualitative analysis of the roles of family caregivers of people living with cancer in Vietnam and the implications for service development in low-income settings

Research on the needs of family caregivers of people living with cancer remains disproportionately focused in high income contexts. This research gap adds to the critical challenge on global equitable delivery of cancer care. This study describes the roles of family caregivers of people living with cancer in Vietnam and possible implications for intervention development.

Semi-structured interviews and focus groups with family caregivers (n = 20) and health care providers (n = 22) were conducted in two national oncology hospitals. Findings were verified via workshops with carers (n = 11) and health care professionals (n = 28) in five oncology hospitals representing different regions of Vietnam. Data was analyzed collaboratively by an international team of researchers according to thematic analysis.

Family caregivers in Vietnam provide an integral role in the delivery of inpatient cancer care. In the hospital environment families are responsible for multiple roles including feeding, hydration, changing, washing, moving, wound care and security of personal belongings. Central to this role is primary decision making in terms of treatment and end-of-life care; relaying information, providing nutritional, emotional and financial support. Families are forced to manage severe complications and health care needs with minimal health literacy and limited health care professional input.

Understanding context and the unique roles of family caregivers of people living with cancer is critical in the development of supportive services. As psycho-oncology develops in low and middle income contexts, it is essential that family caregiver roles are of significant importance.

Financial toxicity due to breast cancer treatment in low- and middle-income countries: evidence from Vietnam

This study examined the financial toxicity faced by breast cancer (BC) patients in Vietnam and the factors associated with the risk and degree of that toxicity.

A total of 309 BC patients/survivors completed an online survey (n=209) or a face-to-face interview (n=100) at two tertiary hospitals. Descriptive statistics and χ2 tests were used to identify and analyse the forms and degree of financial toxicity faced by BC patients/survivors. A Cragg hurdle model assessed variation in risk and the degree of financial toxicity due to treatment.

41% of respondents faced financial toxicity due to BC treatment costs. The mean amount of money that exceeded BC patients/survivors’ ability to pay was 153 million Vietnamese Dong (VND) ($6602) and ranged from 2.42 million VND to 1358 million VND ($104–58,413). A diagnosis at stage II or III of BC was associated with 16.0 and 18.0 million VND (~$690–777) more in the degree of financial toxicity compared with patients who were diagnosed at stage 0/I, respectively. Being retired or married or having full (100%) health insurance was associated with a decrease in the degree of financial toxicity.

A significant proportion of Vietnamese BC patients/survivors face serious financial toxicity due to BC treatment costs. There is a need to consider the introduction of measures that would attenuate this hardship and promote uptake of screening for the reduction in financial toxicity as well as the health gains it may achieve through earlier detection of cancer.

Respiratory complications after surgery in Vietnam: National estimates of the economic burden

Estimating the cost of postoperative respiratory complications is crucial in developing appropriate strategies to mitigate the global and national economic burden. However, systematic analysis of the economic burden in low- and middle-income countries is lacking.

We used the nationwide database of the Vietnam Social Insurance agency and extracted data from January 2017 to September 2018. The data contain 1 241 893 surgical patients undergoing one of seven types of surgery. Propensity score matching method was used to match cases with and without complications. We used generalized gamma regressions to estimate the direct medical costs; logistic regressions to evaluate the impact of postoperative respiratory complications on re-hospitalization and outpatient visits.

Postoperative respiratory complications increased the odds of re-hospitalization and outpatient visits by 3·49 times (95% CI: 3·35–3·64) and 1·39 times (95% CI: 1·34–1·45) among surgical patients, respectively. The mean incremental cost associated with postoperative respiratory complications occurring within 30 days of the index admission was 1053·3 USD (95% CI: 940·7–1165·8) per procedure, which was equivalent to 41% of the GDP per capita of Vietnam in 2018. We estimated the national annual incremental cost due to respiratory complications occurring within 30 days after surgery was 13·87 million USD. Pneumonia contributed the greatest part of the annual cost burden of postoperative respiratory complications.

The economic burden of postoperative respiratory complications is substantial at both individual and national levels. Postoperative respiratory complications also increase the odds of re-hospitalization and outpatient visits and increase the length of hospital stay among surgical patients.

Pathways to care: a case study of traffic injury in Vietnam

Traffic injuries place a significant burden on mortality, morbidity and health services worldwide. Qualitative factors are important determinants of health but they are often ignored in the study of injury and corresponding development of prehospital Emergency Medical Services (EMS), especially in developing country settings. Here we report our research on sociocultural factors shaping pathways to hospital care for those injured on the roads and streets of Vietnam.

Qualitative fieldwork on pathways to emergency care of traffic injury was carried out from March to August 2016 in four hospitals in Vietnam, two in Ho Chi Minh City and two in Hanoi. Forty-eight traffic injured patients and their families were interviewed at length using a semi-structured topic guide regarding their journey to the hospital, help received, personal beliefs and other matters that they thought important. Transcribed interviews were analysed thematically guided by the three-delay model of emergency care.

Seeking care was the first delay and reflected concerns over money and possessions. The family was central for transporting and caring for the patient but their late arrival prolonged time spent at the scene. Reaching care was the second delay and detours to inappropriate primary care services had postponed the eventual trip to the hospital. Ambulance services were misunderstood and believed to be suboptimal, making taxis the preferred form of transport. Receiving care at the hospital was the third delay and both patients and families distrusted service quality. Request to transfer to other hospitals often created more conflict. Overall, sociocultural beliefs of groups of people were very influential.

Analysis using the three-delay model for road traffic injury in Vietnam has revealed important barriers to emergency care. Hospital care needs to improve to enhance patient experiences and trust. Socioculture affects each of the three delays and needs to inform thinking of future developments of the EMS system, especially for countries with limited resources.

Addressing the Burden of Antimicrobial Resistance in Vietnamese Hospitals

Hospital acquired infections (HAIs), especially ventilator associated respiratory infection (VARI) cause significant morbidity and mortality, and disproportionally so in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), including Vietnam, where infection control in hospitals is often neglected. The management of HAIs in these settings is challenging because of the high proportions of antimicrobial drug resistance and limitations of laboratory diagnostics, financial and human resources in terms of knowledge and skills for antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention and control.
Because resistance is driven by use of antimicrobials, my thesis started with a question on use and cost of antimicrobials in public hospitals in the country followed by a detailed
assessment of use and cost of antimicrobials in the management of ventilator associated respiratory infections (VARI). I obtained detailed bids from hospitals and provincial departments of health representing 28.7% (1.68 / 5.85 billion US$) of the total hospital medication budget in Vietnam. Antimicrobials represented 28.6% of these costs.

Antimicrobials were stratified using the Access, Watch, Reserve (AWaRe) groups proposed by WHO in 2017. I showed that the most commonly used antimicrobials across sites were second generation cephalosporins (20.3% of total procured defined daily dose, DDD) followed by combinations of penicillins and beta-lactamase inhibitors (18.4% of total procured DDD). The most expensive antimicrobials are the last resort antimicrobials, which can considerably increase the cost of treatment for patients with HAIs caused by multidrug resistant pathogens in critical care units in Vietnam. In recognition of this problem, I estimated the excess cost of management of VARI using a costing model study. At the current incidence rate of 21.7 episodes per 1000 ventilation-days, I estimated there were 34,428 episodes of VARI nationally, associated with a direct cost of more than US$ 40 million per year. Our studies showed the need for an affordable and scalable intervention in critical care units to reduce the burden of VARI and provide cost savings for national health expenditure.

My studies also showed that antimicrobial costs are a major component of the excess cost of VARI management in Vietnam (51.1%) and that a one day reduction in the duration of antimicrobial therapy can save US$ 1.72 million. Therefore, my thesis has focused on interventions to prevent VARI and to shorten antimicrobial therapy. In recognition of human resources constraints in Vietnam, including for microbiology diagnostics and critical care nursing, I have studied automatic technology and equipment, including matrix assisted
laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDITOF-MS) for rapid identification of pathogens and continuous automatic cuff pressure control device to prevent VARI. To examine effectiveness of these intervention, I conducted 2 randomised controlled trials to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDITOF-MS) in optimizing antimicrobial therapy and to evaluate the effectiveness of continuous cuff pressure control in preventing VARI. For the latter, pending unblinding and final results I describe the implementation of the trial and report the incidence of hospital acquired bloodstream infection during this trial.

A diagnostic randomised controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to evaluate the impact of MALDITOF-MS versus conventional diagnostics in improving antimicrobial use in patients with confirmed infection. Although MALDITOF-MS provided more rapid identification of invasive bacterial and fungal pathogens than conventional microbiology, the proportion of patients on optimal therapy at 24 or 48 hours after growth of specimen did not increase. These findings showed that without human resources and an effective antimicrobial stewardship programme, technology alone cannot provide a solution for antimicrobial overuse in hospitals in LMICs.

A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of
continuous cuff pressure control versus daily manual cuff measurement (VARI-prevent). In this study I recruited and followed-up 597 adult patients who were admitted to ICUs and
were intubated within 48 hours of admission. The patients were randomised to receive either continuous or manual cuff pressure measurement and control and were followed for occurrence of VARI during ICU stay and up to 90 days after randomisation. The study has completed recruitment and follow-up and final analysis is ongoing. The overall rate of VARI and VAP in eligible patients was 23.7% (140/591) and 17.3% (102/591) respectively. The data from this trial (VARI-prevent) was analysed to estimate the incidence density rate of hospital acquired bloodstream infection (HABSI) in 3 ICUs in Vietnam for the first time. The most common pathogens causing HABSI were Klebsiella pneumoniae followed by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Coagulase-Negative staphylococci. Polymicrobial culture results were reported in 6.8% (3/44) patients with culture confirmed HABSI. The rate of HABSI and central line associated BSI (CLABSI) were 7.4% (44/591) and 9.3% (31/333), respectively. The incidence density rate of HABSI and CLABSI were 3.76 per 1000 patients-days and 8.43 per 1000 catheter-days, respectively. This suggests that the implementation of infection prevention and control bundle including catheter care is important to reduce the high incidence of HABSI in Vietnam. The findings in my thesis are relevant to healthcare professionals and policy stakeholders. It demonstrates the magnitude of HAI burden and creates awareness of potential beneficial interventions. Results of my trials will be helpful to inform decisions to establish the antimicrobial stewardship programmes and infection prevention and control bundles to improve patients’ outcomes.

Implementation and evaluation of nonclinical interventions for appropriate use of cesarean section in low- and middle-income countries: protocol for a multisite hybrid effectiveness-implementation type III trial

Background: While cesarean sections (CSs) are a life-saving intervention, an increasing number are performed without medical reasons in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Unnecessary CS diverts scarce resources and thereby reduces access to healthcare for women in need. Argentina, Burkina Faso, Thailand, and Vietnam are committed to reducing unnecessary CS, but many individual and organizational factors in healthcare facilities obstruct this aim. Nonclinical interventions can overcome these barriers by helping providers improve their practices and supporting women’s decision-making regarding childbirth. Existing evidence has shown only a modest effect of single interventions on reducing CS rates, arguably because of the failure to design multifaceted interventions effectively tailored to the context. The aim of this study is to design, adapt, and test a multifaceted intervention for the appropriate use of CS in Argentina, Burkina Faso, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Methods: We designed an intervention (QUALIty DECision-making-QUALI-DEC) with four components: (1) opinion leaders at heathcare facilities to improve adherence to best practices among clinicians, (2) CS audits and feedback to help providers identify potentially avoidable CS, (3) a decision analysis tool to help women make an informed decision on the mode of birth, and (4) companionship to support women during labor. QUALI-DEC will be implemented and evaluated in 32 hospitals (8 sites per country) using a pragmatic hybrid effectiveness-implementation design to test our implementation strategy, and information regarding its impact on relevant maternal and perinatal outcomes will be gathered. The implementation strategy will involve the participation of women, healthcare professionals, and organizations and account for the local environment, needs, resources, and social factors in each country.

Discussion: There is urgent need for interventions and implementation strategies to optimize the use of CS while improving health outcomes and satisfaction in LMICs. This can only be achieved by engaging all stakeholders involved in the decision-making process surrounding birth and addressing their needs and concerns. The study will generate robust evidence about the effectiveness and the impact of this multifaceted intervention. It will also assess the acceptability and scalability of the intervention and the capacity for empowerment among women and providers alike.

Outcomes of trauma education workshop in Vietnam: improving diagnostic and surgical skills

Unintentional injuries have emerged as a significant public health issue in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), especially in Vietnam, where there is a poor quality of care for trauma. A scarcity of formal and informal training opportunities contributes to a lack of structure for treating trauma in Vietnam. A collaborative trauma education project by the JW LEE Center for Global Medicine in South Korea and the Military Hospital 175 in Vietnam was implemented to enhance trauma care capacity among medical staff across Ho Chi Minh City in 2018. We aimed to evaluate a part of the trauma education project, a one-day workshop that targeted improving diagnostic and surgical skills among the medical staff (physicians and nurses).

A one-day workshop was offered to medical staff across Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2018. The workshop was implemented to enhance the trauma care knowledge of providers and to provide practical and applicable diagnostic and surgical skills. To evaluate the workshop outcomes, we utilized a mixed-methods survey data. All participants (n = 27) voluntarily completed the post-workshop questionnaire. Quality of contents, satisfaction with teaching skills, and perceived benefit were used as outcomes of the workshop, measured by 5-point Likert scales (score: 1–5). Descriptive statistics were performed, and open-ended questions were analyzed by recurring themes.

The results from the post-workshop questionnaire demonstrated that the participants were highly satisfied with the quality of the workshop contents (mean = 4.32 standard deviation (SD) = 0.62). The mean score of the satisfaction regarding the teaching skills was 4.19 (SD = 0.61). The mean score of the perceived benefit from the workshop was 4.17 (SD = 0.63). The open-ended questions revealed that the program improved their knowledge in complex orthopedic surgeries neglected prior to training.

Positive learning experiences highlighted the need for the continuation of the international collaboration of skill development and capacity building for trauma care in Vietnam and other LMIC.

Breast Cancer messaging in Vietnam: an online media content analysis

Background: Breast cancer incidence is increasing in Vietnam with studies indicating low levels of knowledge and awareness and late presentation. While there is a growing body of literature on challenges faced by women in accessing breast cancer services, and for delivering care, no studies have sought to analyse breast cancer messaging in the Vietnamese popular media. The aim of this study was to investigate and understand the content of messages concerning breast cancer in online Vietnamese newspapers in order to inform future health promotional content.

Methods: This study describes a mixed-methods media content analysis that counted and ranked frequencies for media content (article text, themes and images) related to breast cancer in six Vietnamese online news publications over a twelve month period.

Results: Media content (n = 129 articles & n = 237 images) sampled showed that although information is largely accurate, there is a marked lack of stories about Vietnamese women’s personal experiences. Such stories could help bridge the gap between what information about breast cancer is presented in the Vietnamese media, and what women in Vietnam understand about breast cancer risk factors, symptoms, screening and treatment.

Conclusions: Given findings from other studies indicating low levels of knowledge and women with breast cancer experiencing stigma and prejudice, more nuanced and in-depth narrative-focused messaging may be required.

Thoracoscopic Surgery Approach to Mediastinal Mature Teratomas: A Single-Center Experience

Mediastinal mature teratomas are rare tumors with diverse surgical approaches. The aim of this study is to review our experience of thoracoscopic surgery management in patients with teratomas.
We retrospectively reviewed 28 consecutive patients with mediastinal mature teratomas who underwent thoracoscopic surgery at Viet Duc University Hospital from January 2008 to August2018. Patients were divided into 2 groups with 2 types of thoracoscopic surgery, closed thoracoscopic surgery (CTS) group and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) group. The selection of sugical approach was based on sizes, locations and characteristics of tumors. Post-operative outcomes were assessed and compared between these 2 groups.
There were 14 female and 14 male patients with a median age of 41.2 ± 13.8 years. A total of 22 teratomas were located on the right side of the chest cavity and 6 on the left side. We performed CTS in 21 patients (75%) and VATS in 7 patients (25%) for tumor resection. There were 3 cases (10.7%) required conversion to minithoracotomy (5 cm in incision length). Skin appendages accounted for the highest rate (96.4%) in pathology. There was no record of mortality or tumor recurrence detected by computerized tomography.
A thoracoscopic surgery for a mediastinal mature teratoma was a feasible choice. Challenging factors such as large tumors, intraoperative bleeding and strong tumor cell adhesion were considered handling by conversion to mini-thoracotomy that could ensure safety procedures and complete removal of tumors. Extraction of tumor contents might be performed for patients with large mature cystic teratomas to facilitate thoracoscopic surgery.

An International Collaborative Study on Surgical Education for Quality Improvement (ASSURED): A Project by the 2017 International Society of Surgery (ISS/SIC) Travel Scholars International Working Group

Background: There is a huge difference in the standard of surgical training in different countries around the world. The disparity is more obvious in the various models of surgical training in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared to high-income countries. Although the global training model of surgeons is evolving from an apprenticeship model to a competency-based model with additional training using simulation, the training of surgeons in LMICs still lacks a standard pathway of training.

Methods: This is a qualitative, descriptive, and collaborative study conducted in six LMICs across Asia, Africa, and South America. The data were collected on the status of surgical education in these countries as per the guidelines designed for the ASSURED project along with plans for quality improvement in surgical education in these countries.

Results: The training model in these selected LMICs appears to be a hybrid of the standard models of surgical training. The training models were tailored to the country’s need, but many fail to meet international standards. There are many areas identified that can be addressed in order to improve the quality of surgical education in these countries.

Conclusions: Many areas need to be improved for a better quality of surgical training in LMICs. There is a need of financial, technical, and research support for the improvement in these models of surgical education in LMICs.