From September 2013 to September 2016, I-TECH conducted an implementation science research project to improve laboratory quality in Cambodia. The primary objective of the project was to implement a mentored laboratory quality stepwise implementation (LQSI) program to strengthen the quality and capacity of Cambodian hospital laboratories. As a result, target laboratories improved their operations in the areas of: biosafety, organization, personnel, equipment maintenance, purchasing and inventory, testing accuracy, process management, documentation and communication.
The project recruited and trained four laboratory technician to be mentors, training staff from 12 referral hospital laboratories in quality management systems (QMS), and reinforcing skills acquisition through in-person mentoring. Participating laboratories reported a 36% increase in quality management, 29% improvement in data management, and 25% improvement in specimen collection and handling. The laboratories established the foundational practices of a QMS, and the LQSI program has improved the recognition of the laboratory within the hospitals.
I-TECH’s laboratory program began in Cambodia in 2013 with the goal to improve operations and regional biosurveillance and biosecurity through improved laboratory quality assurance and management practices. In collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and with funding provided by the Department of Defense and DTRA, I-TECH strengthens the Cambodian laboratory system through:
Implementation of an intensive mentoring program at 12 national and provincial public health laboratories;
Leadership and management capacity building of MoH laboratory leaders;
Mentoring and capacity building the National Animal Health and Production Research Institute (in collaboration with Washington State University);
Job specific training delivered in service and through educational programs such as the Quality Assurance Certificate Course (in collaboration with the University of British Columbia);
Support for laboratory workforce development through on-site technical assistance and training;
Support for national laboratory system policy development.
I-TECH Tanzania led the development of the task-sharing policy guidelines for Health Sector Services approved in 2016 as well as the policy’s operational plan. While task-sharing is a widely known HIV service delivery efficiency strategy, still there is continues gaps between national strategies and actual implementation at the site-level [1,2].
Representatives from the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) attended the fourth international African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) conference in Abuja, Nigeria, on 10-13 December 2018.
The theme this year focused on the role of laboratories in preventing and controlling the next pandemic. I-TECH had seven abstracts accepted at the conference that highlighted the laboratory systems strengthening work done by I-TECH in Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zambia. The full abstracts presented by I-TECH can be found in the ASLM 2018 Conference Abstracts Conference Book.
Below is a summary of I-TECH presentations:
Siew Kim Ong, I-TECH Cambodia Project Coordinator, was lead author and presenter for the “Improved Laboratory Compliance to Quality Standards in Cambodian Laboratories through On-site Trainings.” This abstract reviewed the effect of training in 12 I-TECH-mentored laboratories in Cambodia on laboratory processes (Page 27).
Nayah Ndefru, I-TECH Seattle Laboratory Strengthening Specialist, presented an abstract titled, “Effectiveness of Using a Mixed Approach of On-site Mentoring and Tele-mentoring for Improving Laboratory Quality Management Systems: Lessons From Cambodia.” The presentation looked at the lessons learned in the implementation of a Quality Management System (QMS) in 12 national hospital laboratories throughout Cambodia and the 2018 pilot approach to addressing the QMS gaps identified in an earlier baseline survey (Page 55).
Larissa Koffi, I-TECH Côte d’Ivoire RTCQI Specialist, presented two posters: One titled, “Analysis of EQA HIV Serology Data in Côte d’Ivoire Reveals Gaps in Quality Testing.” The second poster was “Analysis of HIV Point of Care Testing Sites in Côte d’Ivoire Reveals Gaps in Tester Competence.” The posters displayed the results of a retrospective study that can inform strategies and interventions for improved quality at HIV testing sites (Page 200).
Sylvestre Kone, I-TECH Côte d’Ivoire Laboratory Quality Specialist, presented a poster titled “Improving Quality and Capacity of the Laboratory System in Côte d’Ivoire.” The poster detailed the work the team is doing to train and mentor laboratory staff in hospital laboratories towards achieving international quality standards (Page 242).
Felicity Gopolang, I-TECH Laboratory Mentor Consultant, presented a poster titled, “Implementation of a Professional Development Program in Laboratory Leadership and Quality Management in Zambia from 2016-2018.” The poster outlined the impact of the Program on quality improvement (Page 206).
Pat Sadate-Ngatchou, I-TECH Seattle Senior Laboratory Advisor, was lead author on the poster titled “Improvement of Quality Practices within HIV Point-of-Care testing (POCT) Sites in Côte d’Ivoire Through Implementation of the Rapid Test Continuous Quality Improvement (RTCQI),” which explored the impact of the implementation of RTCQI in POCT site audits (Page 246).
About ASLM The mission of ASLM is to improve clinical and public health outcomes in Africa by enhancing professional laboratory practice, science and networks. Based on five strategic pillars, ASLM serves the community of laboratory professionals and promotes the value of strong medical laboratories to key stakeholders such as the Ministries of Health, research laboratories, and universities. ASLM is an independent, non-profit organization endorsed by the African Union and headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
I-TECH India PL is part of various national ART and testing guideline groups of NACO in India, including Journey of ART Programme in India; HTS Guidelines; ART Guidelines for HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, May 2013; National Guidelines on Second-line and Alternative First-line ART For Adults and Adolescents, May 2013; Operational Guidelines for ART Centers, July 2012; HIV/TB Guidelines, 2015; and NationalART Technical Guidelines, October 2018 (http://www.naco.gov.in/care-support-treatment).
The team also assisted NACO in designing standard operating procedures for implementing newer program initiatives such as Treat All, Pre-ART mop-up, co-located ART and OST (Oral Substitution Therapy) Centres, ART through targeted intervention programs, and multi-month dispensation of ART.
I-TECH India PL has provided national, state, and facility level technical assistance for improving quality, analysis and presentation of ART program data; developed innovative tools for tracking program progress based on data analysis of selected indicators over a period of time and submitted for national scale-up; and provided technical mentoring to improve quality of data collection and reporting by the ART Centers at 48 sites of India in the last three years.
I-TECH India PL has successfully designed and implemented four differentiated ART service delivery models, including models for key population clients, in collaboration with other stakeholders in states of Maharashtra, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram to develop a proof of concept for the national level scale up;
Improved delivery of health services through onsite technical mentoring and supervison of health care staff in 9% of the ART centers of the country in the last three years;
Technically assisted successful implementation of newer initiatives such as treatment of TB through the ART centers, the “Treat All” initiative, and routine viral load monitoring at 48 ART centers; and
Conducted/participated in health service delivery assessments of facilities such as the national HIV/AIDS Centers of Excellence, ART Centers, Link ART Centers, and other care and support centers for the NACO.
Caryl Feldacker, PhD, MPH, has over 20 years of international experience focused on ensuring quality public health programming and rigorous program monitoring and evaluation (M&E), including more than ten years conducting HIV-related implementation science research in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Feldacker is the co-principal investigator (PI) on the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) Integrated Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) program in Zimbabwe. Her current research focuses on digital health solutions to improve the quality of patient care while reducing provider workload and program costs. She is PI for four National Institutes for Health (NIH) studies using interactive, two-way texting (2wT) between patients and providers to improve patient retention in care, provide post-operative telehealth, and improve data quality in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. For each initiative, she partners closely with ministries of health and local partners with the aim of helping strengthen monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and research capacity for sustained improvement. Her digital health interventions employ the open-source Community Health Toolkit in collaboration with Medic.
Her broad implementation and research experience includes exploring trends in adverse events in VMMC programs; closing HIV service delivery gaps; strengthening routine data quality for accurate and timely reporting; task-shifting of healthcare workers; understanding patterns in loss-to-follow-up within routine HIV program settings; strengthening integration of family planning into HIV-related care; and expanding electronic medical record systems to provide integrated patient care.
Dr. Feldacker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Global Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington (UW). In addition to her work with I-TECH, Dr. Feldacker is affiliated with the UW Global Center for Integrated Health of Women, Adolescents, and Children (GlobalWACh) where she aims to translate 2wT-based advantages for the postpartum care context.
In October 2016, the Government of Tanzania adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Treat All recommendations. The adoption of WHO recommendations, coupled with the Government of Tanzania’s acceptance of the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets represents a significant commitment to the fight against HIV in Tanzania.