Generating and using evidence on healthcare facility readiness during COVID-19

News and Press Release
Originally published

By Sara Nam, Technical Specialist in SRH – Options and Professor Karl Blanchet, Director – Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action.

As COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe, governments are preparing and responding to the outbreak and need information to help them to identify what resources health facilities need to continue to provide essential health services while keeping their staff safe.

To do this, Options joined forces with the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action and others to create a range of tools that enable governments as well as humanitarian and development organisations develop to assess the readiness of primary healthcare facilities. These are at the frontline in managing the pandemic and play a vital role in containing the outbreak and reducing community transmission as their key function is to identify, test and isolating COVID-19 cases, and referring patients for further care.

The first toolkit includes an assessment tool for primary health facilities, which measures a facility’s available resources to allow them to safely screen and manage possible COVID-19 cases. It also includes data collection guidelines, which can collect responses for individual facilities and automate facility level scorecards in a simple Excel format, and analytical tools, which automatically codes and loads data onto a worksheet to simplify data analysis across multiple facilities.

These COVID-19 health facility assessment toolkits have been peer reviewed by representatives from the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO), the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Irish Global Health Network.

The findings from these assessments will allow the facility and health planners to raise a flag were there are gaps in quality of services and identify what additional steps they need to take to safely continue to provide essential services. This could include, for example, training for staff in infection prevention and control, supplies of personal protective equipment or developing protocols for COVID-19 sample management and transport.

Using the findings from these assessments is key to addressing the needs of frontline workers in primary care facilities and to achieving improvements in the readiness of services and quality of care. Our experience in working with facility assessments in several countries has shown that the following eight tips can help to guide this process:

  1. Ensure ownership of data: make sure the assessments are welcomed and needed by government and key stakeholders, including the facility managers. Once data are analysed, verify findings with key stakeholders.

  2. Summarise and present assessment findings in digestible and accessible formats such as short scorecards or infographics. Use visuals where possible; stakeholders can dive into more lengthy detailed reports of the findings if necessary. For examples, take a look at the slideshow below.

  3. Clearly spell out the actions needed to achieve improvements. Focus on one to three of the most important issues that have the highest impact on improving quality of care.

  4. Tailor the communication of the assessment findings to the different audiences that can influence change. Community representatives will likely need the information communicated in different ways than policy makers.

  5. Share the assessment findings with those who contributed to data and responses and invite them to provide feedback.

  6. Time release of the findings carefully to ensure they can feed into decision-making and budgeting processes.

  7. Follow up on actions that have emerged from the assessments to check if gaps in readiness or quality of care have been addressed.

  8. Repeat the assessment at relevant, feasible intervals to reflect changes in the situation as the outbreak evolves to ensure health staff have the equipment they need to continue providing essential services safely and with confidence.

A similar assessment tool will soon be released for secondary hospitals that will allow hospital management boards and health authorities to identify the processes that need to be put in place to enable hospitals to plan, prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak whilst maintaining other essential services.

Click here to access an open access web-based platform that facilitates learning among organisations in different sectors and promotes the exchange of field-based COVID-19 programme adaptations and innovations. The page also features the tools, which can also be accessed on the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action’s website.