Early treatment of corneal abrasions and ulcers–estimating clinical and economic outcomes

In low-and-middle income countries, corneal abrasions and ulcers are common and not always well managed. Previous studies showed better clinical outcomes with early presentation and treatment of minor abrasions, however, there have been no formal studies estimating the financial impact of early treatment of abrasions and ulcers compared to delayed treatment.

We used the LV Prasad Eye Institute’s (LVPEI’s) electronic health record system (eyeSmart) to estimate the impact of early presentation on clinical outcomes associated with abrasions and ulcers. 861 patients with corneal abrasion and 1821 patients with corneal ulcers were studied retrospectively, and 134 patients with corneal abrasion prospectively. A health economic model was constructed based on LVPEI cost data for a range of patient scenarios (from early presentation with abrasion to late presentation with ulcer).

Our findings suggest that delayed presentation of corneal abrasion results in poor clinical and economic outcomes due to increased risk of ulceration requiring more extensive surgical management, increasing associated costs to patients and the healthcare system. However, excellent results at low cost can be achieved by treatment of patients with early presentation of abrasions at village level health care centres.

Treatment of early minor corneal abrasions, particularly using local delivery of treatment, is effective clinically and economically. Future investment in making patients aware of the need to react promptly to corneal abrasions by accessing local healthcare resources (coupled with a campaign to prevent ulcerations occurring) will continue to improve clinical outcomes for patients at low cost and avoid complex and more expensive treatment to preserve sight.

This research was funded by the Medical Research Council, grant MR/S004688/1.

Barriers and enablers to country adoption of National Surgical, Obstetric, and Anesthesia Plans

This paper examines the adoption and diffusion of National Surgical Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plans (NSOAPs), a policy instrument, to improve surgical healthcare services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It draws on recent trends in health system reform and empiricism to understand NSOAP effectiveness for large-scale improvement in surgical system objectives (surgical outcomes, patient satisfaction and financial risk protection). While the study reveals that NSOAP adoption has occurred in several countries, its translation into effective, responsive and equitable coverage of surgical healthcare services (diffusion) with enduring impact has yet to occur on a large-scale. NSOAP adoption and diffusion has been constrained by two principal considerations: (I) suboptimal funding allocation to develop NSOAPs and implement within a health system context; (II) inadequate translation of the NSOAP into implementable activities that lead to improved health system performance. We argue that a systems perspective—dynamically optimizing the NSOAP in relation to specific health system, adoption system, and contextual factors—may enhance the scale-up of NSOAPs and lead to sustainably funded programs that enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness and equity of surgical healthcare service over the long-term. We explore three specific areas—technology, financing, governance—which could be harnessed to enhance the adoption and diffusion of NSOAPs.

Economic Evaluations of Breast Cancer Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Scoping Review

Understanding the cost of delivering breast cancer (BC) care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is critical to guide effective care delivery strategies. This scoping review summarizes the scope of literature on the costs of BC care in LMICs and characterizes the methodological approaches of these economic evaluations.

Materials and Methods
A systematic literature search was performed in five databases and gray literature up to March 2020. Studies were screened to identify original articles that included a cost outcome for BC diagnosis or treatment in an LMIC. Two independent reviewers assessed articles for eligibility. Data related to study characteristics and methodology were extracted. Study quality was assessed using the Drummond et al. checklist.

Ninety-one articles across 38 countries were included. The majority (73%) of studies were published between 2013 and 2020. Low-income countries (2%) and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (9%) were grossly underrepresented. The majority of studies (60%) used a health care system perspective. Time horizon was not reported in 30 studies (33%). Of the 33 studies that estimated the cost of multiple steps in the BC care pathway, the majority (73%) were of high quality, but studies varied in their inclusion of nonmedical direct and indirect costs.

There has been substantial growth in the number of BC economic evaluations in LMICs in the past decade, but there remain limited data from low-income countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. BC economic evaluations should be prioritized in these countries. Use of existing frameworks for economic evaluations may help achieve comparable, transparent costing analyses.

Treating Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease Abroad? Imperatives for Local Health System Development

Over one million children are born with congenital heart defects each year, whereas four million children live with with rheumatic heart disease. Although a majority of these patients will eventually require surgical or interventional care, most live in areas without access to safe, timely, and affordable cardiac surgical care. Countries with limited or no local cardiac surgical care spend up to over 10% of their health budgets on sending patients abroad to receive cardiac care. Similarly, billions of dollars are spent each year on international medical tourism, notably including seeking cardiac surgical care abroad. Some low- and middle-income countries have successfully invested in domestic cardiac surgical services, saving tens of millions of dollars over time whilst strengthening local health systems. In this article, we describe international medical tourism for pediatric and congenital heart disease, and present an analysis on whether expenditure in seeking foreign care for cardiovascular patients is worth the cost in light of a neglect of investments in local cardiac services in countries with growing health systems.

Innovative Financing to Fund Surgical Systems and Expand Surgical Care in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries

Strong surgical systems are necessary to prevent premature death and avoidable disability from surgical conditions. The epidemiological transition, which has led to a rising burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries worldwide, will increase the demand for surgical assessment and care as a definitive healthcare intervention. Yet, 5 billion people lack access to timely, affordable and safe surgical and anaesthesia care, with the unmet demand affecting predominantly low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Rapid surgical care scale-up is required in LMICs to strengthen health system capabilities, but adequate financing for this expansion is lacking. This article explores the critical role of innovative financing in scaling up surgical care in LMICs. We locate surgical system financing by using a modified fiscal space analysis. Through an analysis of published studies and case studies on recent trends in the financing of global health systems, we provide a conceptual framework that could assist policy-makers in health systems to develop innovative financing strategies to mobilise additional investments for scale-up of surgical care in LMICs. This is the first time such an analysis has been applied to the funding of surgical care. Innovative financing in global surgery is an untapped potential funding source for expanding fiscal space for health systems and financing scale-up of surgical care in LMICs.