Clinical diagnosis in paediatric patients at urban primary health care facilities in southern Malawi: a longitudinal observational study
Background: Despite health centres being the first point of contact of care, there are challenges faced in providing care to patients at this level. In Malawi, service provision barriers reported at this level included long waiting times, high numbers of patients and erratic consultation systems which lead to mis-diagnosis and delayed referrals. Proper case management at this level of care is critical to prevent severe disease and deaths in children.Objective: Adopting ETAT to improve ability
... o improve ability to identify severe illness in children at primary health centre (PHC) level through comparison with secondary level diagnoses.Methods: We implemented ETAT mHealth algorithm at eight urban PHCs in Blantyre, Malawi between April 2017 and September 2018. Health workers and support staff were trained in mHealth ETAT. Stabilisation rooms were established and equipped with emergency equipment. All PHCs used an electronic tracking system to triage and track sick children on referral to secondary care, facilitated by a unique barcode. Support staff at PHC triaged sick children using ETAT Emergency (E), Priority (P) and Queue (Q) symptoms and clinician gave clinical diagnosis. The secondary level diagnosis was considered as a gold standard. We used statistical computing software R (v3.5.1) and used exact 95% binomial confidence intervals when estimating diagnosis agreement proportions.Results: Eight-five percentage of all cases where assigned to E (9.0%) and P (75.5%) groups. Pneumonia was the most common PHC level diagnosis across all three triage groups (E,P,Q). The PHC level diagnosis of trauma was the most commonly confirmed diagnosis at secondary level facility (85.0%) , while a PHC diagnosis of pneumonia was least likely to be confirmed at secondary level (39.56%). The secondary level diagnosis least likely to have been identified at PHC level was bronchiolitis 3 (5.2%). The majority of bronchiolitis cases (n = 50; (86.2%) were classified as pneumonia at the PHC level facility.Conclusions Implementing a sustainable and consistent ETAT approach with stabilisation and treatment capacity at PHC level reinforce staff capacity to diagnose and has the potential to reduce other health system costs through fewer, timely and appropriate referrals.