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      Guidelines and mindlines: why do clinical staff over-diagnose malaria in Tanzania? A qualitative study

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          Abstract

          Background

          Malaria over-diagnosis in Africa is widespread and costly both financially and in terms of morbidity and mortality from missed diagnoses. An understanding of the reasons behind malaria over-diagnosis is urgently needed to inform strategies for better targeting of antimalarials.

          Methods

          In an ethnographic study of clinical practice in two hospitals in Tanzania, 2,082 patient consultations with 34 clinicians were observed over a period of three months at each hospital. All clinicians were also interviewed individually as well as being observed during routine working activities with colleagues. Interviews with five tutors and 10 clinical officer students at a nearby clinical officer training college were subsequently conducted.

          Results

          Four, primarily social, spheres of influence on malaria over-diagnosis were identified. Firstly, the influence of initial training within a context where the importance of malaria is strongly promoted. Secondly, the influence of peers, conforming to perceived expectations from colleagues. Thirdly, pressure to conform with perceived patient preferences. Lastly, quality of diagnostic support, involving resource management, motivation and supervision. Rather than following national guidelines for the diagnosis of febrile illness, clinician behaviour appeared to follow 'mindlines': shared rationales constructed from these different spheres of influence. Three mindlines were identified in this setting: malaria is easier to diagnose than alternative diseases; malaria is a more acceptable diagnosis; and missing malaria is indefensible. These mindlines were apparent during the training stages as well as throughout clinical careers.

          Conclusion

          Clinicians were found to follow mindlines as well as or rather than guidelines, which incorporated multiple social influences operating in the immediate and the wider context of decision making. Interventions to move mindlines closer to guidelines need to take the variety of social influences into account.

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          Most cited references 50

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          Overdiagnosis of malaria in patients with severe febrile illness in Tanzania: a prospective study.

          To study the diagnosis and outcomes in people admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of severe malaria in areas with differing intensities of malaria transmission. Prospective observational study of children and adults over the course a year. 10 hospitals in north east Tanzania. 17,313 patients were admitted to hospital; of these 4474 (2851 children aged under 5 years) fulfilled criteria for severe disease. Details of the treatment given and outcome. Altitudes of residence (a proxy for transmission intensity) measured with a global positioning system. Blood film microscopy showed that 2062 (46.1%) of people treated for malaria had Plasmodium falciparum (slide positive). The proportion of slide positive cases fell with increasing age and increasing altitude of residence. Among 1086 patients aged > or = 5 years who lived above 600 metres, only 338 (31.1%) were slide positive, while in children < 5 years living in areas of intense transmission (< 600 metres) most (958/1392, 68.8%) were slide positive. Among 2375 people who were slide negative, 1571 (66.1%) were not treated with antibiotics and of those, 120 (7.6%) died. The case fatality in slide negative patients was higher (292/2412, 12.1%) than for slide positive patients (142/2062, 6.9%) (P < 0.001). Respiratory distress and altered consciousness were the strongest predictors of mortality in slide positive and slide negative patients and in adults as well as children. In Tanzania, malaria is commonly overdiagnosed in people presenting with severe febrile illness, especially in those living in areas with low to moderate transmission and in adults. This is associated with a failure to treat alternative causes of severe infection. Diagnosis needs to be improved and syndromic treatment considered. Routine hospital data may overestimate mortality from malaria by over twofold.
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            Rapid diagnostic tests compared with malaria microscopy for guiding outpatient treatment of febrile illness in Tanzania: randomised trial.

            To compare rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria with routine microscopy in guiding treatment decisions for febrile patients. Randomised trial. Outpatient departments in northeast Tanzania at varying levels of malaria transmission. 2416 patients for whom a malaria test was requested. Staff received training on rapid diagnostic tests; patients sent for malaria tests were randomised to rapid diagnostic test or routine microscopy Proportion of patients with a negative test prescribed an antimalarial drug. Of 7589 outpatient consultations, 2425 (32%) had a malaria test requested. Of 1204 patients randomised to microscopy, 1030 (86%) tested negative for malaria; 523 (51%) of these were treated with an antimalarial drug. Of 1193 patients randomised to rapid diagnostic test, 1005 (84%) tested negative; 540 (54%) of these were treated for malaria (odds ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 0.95 to 1.34; P=0.18). Children aged under 5 with negative rapid diagnostic tests were more likely to be prescribed an antimalarial drug than were those with negative slides (P=0.003). Patients with a negative test by any method were more likely to be prescribed an antibiotic (odds ratio 6.42, 4.72 to 8.75; P<0.001). More than 90% of prescriptions for antimalarial drugs in low-moderate transmission settings were for patients for whom a test requested by a clinician was negative for malaria. Although many cases of malaria are missed outside the formal sector, within it malaria is massively over-diagnosed. This threatens the sustainability of deployment of artemisinin combination treatment, and treatable bacterial diseases are likely to be missed. Use of rapid diagnostic tests, with basic training for clinical staff, did not in itself lead to any reduction in over-treatment for malaria. Interventions to improve clinicians' management of febrile illness are essential but will not be easy. Clinical trials NCT00146796 [ClinicalTrials.gov].
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              Health worker motivation in Africa: the role of non-financial incentives and human resource management tools

              Background There is a serious human resource crisis in the health sector in developing countries, particularly in Africa. One of the challenges is the low motivation of health workers. Experience and the evidence suggest that any comprehensive strategy to maximize health worker motivation in a developing country context has to involve a mix of financial and non-financial incentives. This study assesses the role of non-financial incentives for motivation in two cases, in Benin and Kenya. Methods The study design entailed semi-structured qualitative interviews with doctors and nurses from public, private and NGO facilities in rural areas. The selection of health professionals was the result of a layered sampling process. In Benin 62 interviews with health professionals were carried out; in Kenya 37 were obtained. Results from individual interviews were backed up with information from focus group discussions. For further contextual information, interviews with civil servants in the Ministry of Health and at the district level were carried out. The interview material was coded and quantitative data was analysed with SPSS software. Results and discussion The study shows that health workers overall are strongly guided by their professional conscience and similar aspects related to professional ethos. In fact, many health workers are demotivated and frustrated precisely because they are unable to satisfy their professional conscience and impeded in pursuing their vocation due to lack of means and supplies and due to inadequate or inappropriately applied human resources management (HRM) tools. The paper also indicates that even some HRM tools that are applied may adversely affect the motivation of health workers. Conclusion The findings confirm the starting hypothesis that non-financial incentives and HRM tools play an important role with respect to increasing motivation of health professionals. Adequate HRM tools can uphold and strengthen the professional ethos of doctors and nurses. This entails acknowledging their professionalism and addressing professional goals such as recognition, career development and further qualification. It must be the aim of human resources management/quality management (HRM/QM) to develop the work environment so that health workers are enabled to meet their personal and the organizational goals.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Malar J
                Malaria Journal
                BioMed Central
                1475-2875
                2008
                2 April 2008
                : 7
                : 53
                Affiliations
                [1 ]London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, WC1E 7HT, London, UK
                [2 ]Joint Malaria Programme, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, P O Box 2228, Moshi, Tanzania
                Article
                1475-2875-7-53
                10.1186/1475-2875-7-53
                2323020
                18384669
                Copyright © 2008 Chandler et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research

                Infectious disease & Microbiology

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