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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - African Journal of Laboratory Medicine
Title Use of laboratory test results in patient management by clinicians in Malawi
Volume 4
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 1-8
URL http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?pid=S2225-20102015000100014&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en
BACKGROUND: Malawi has a high burden of infectious disease. The expansion of programmes targeting these diseases requires a strong laboratory infrastructure to support both diagnosis and treatment.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the use of laboratory test results in patient management and to determine the requirements for improving laboratory services.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2012 to survey practising clinicians. Two hospitals were purposively selected for observations of clinicians ordering laboratory tests. Twelve management-level key informants were interviewed. Descriptive statistics were conducted.
RESULTS: A total of 242 clinicians were identified and 216 (89%) were interviewed. Of these, 189 (87%) reported doubting laboratory test results at some point. Clinicians most often doubted the quality of haematology (67%), followed by malaria (53%) and CD4 (22%) test results. A total of 151 (70%) clinicians reported using laboratory tests results in patient management. Use of laboratory test results at all times in patient management varied by the type of health facility (P < 0.001). Ninety-one percent of clinicians reported that laboratories required infrastructure improvement. During 97 observations of clinicians' use of laboratory test results, 80 tests were ordered, and 73 (91%) of these were used in patient management. Key informants reported that the quality of laboratory services was good and useful, but that services were often unavailable.
CONCLUSION: Gaps in the public laboratory system were evident. Key recommendations to enhance the use of laboratory test results in patient management were to strengthen the supply chain, reduce turn-around times, improve the test menu and improve the laboratory infrastructure.

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