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The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-018-0712-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
An estimated 2.6 million newborns died in 2016; over 98.5% of deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Neonates born preterm and small for gestational age are particularly at risk given the high incidence of infectious complications, cardiopulmonary, and neurodevelopmental disorders in this group. Quality improvement (QI) initiatives can reduce the burden of mortality and morbidity for hospitalised newborns in these settings. We undertook a systematic review to synthesise evidence from LMICs on QI approaches used, outcome measures employed to estimate effects, and the nature of implementation challenges.
We searched Medline, EMBASE, WHO Global Health Library, Cochrane Library, WHO ICTRP, and ClinicalTrials.gov and scanned the references of identified studies and systematic reviews. Searches covered January 2000 until April 2017. Search terms were “quality improvement”, “newborns”, “hospitalised”, and their derivatives. Studies were excluded if they took place in high-income countries, did not include QI interventions, or did not include small and sick hospitalised newborns. Cochrane Risk of Bias tools were used to quality appraise the studies.
From 8110 results, 28 studies were included, covering 23 LMICs and 65,642 participants. Most interventions were meso level (district and clinic level); fewer were micro (patient-provider level) or macro (above district level). In-service training was the most common intervention subtype; service organisation and distribution of referencing materials were also frequently identified. The most commonly assessed outcome was mortality, followed by length of admission, sepsis rates, and infection rates. Key barriers to implementation of quality improvement initiatives included overburdened staff and lack of sufficient equipment.
The frequency of meso level, single centre, and educational interventions suggests that these interventions may be easier for programme planners to implement. The success of some interventions in reducing morbidity and mortality rates suggests that QI approaches have a high potential for benefit to newborns. Going forward, there are opportunities to strengthen the focus of QI initiatives and to develop improved, larger-scale, collaborative research into implementation of quality improvement initiatives for this high-risk group.