Assessing the quality of facility-level family planning services in Malawi

The Case Study series presents real applications of Quality Assurance (QA) methodologies in developing countries at various health system levels, from national to community. The series focuses on QA applications in maternal and reproductive health, child survival, and infectious diseases. Each case study focuses on a major QA activity area, such as quality design, quality improvement, communication and development of standards, and quality assessment. In some cases, more than one QA activity is presented. Quality assessment is the measurement of the quality of healthcare services. A quality assessment measures the difference between expected and actual performance to identify opportunities for improvement. Performance standards can be established for most dimensions of quality, such as technical competence, effectiveness, efficiency, safety, and coverage. Where standards are established, a quality assessment measures the level of compliance with standards. For dimensions of quality where standards are more difficult to identify, such as continuity of care or accessibility, a quality assessment describes the current level of performance with the objective of improving it. A quality assessment frequently combines various data collection methods to overcome the intrinsic biases of each method alone. These methods include direct observation of patient provider encounters, staff interview, patient focus group, record review, and facility inspection. The assessment is often the initial step in a larger process which may include providing feedback to health workers on performance, training and motivating staff to undertake quality improvements, and designing solutions to bridge the quality gap. This case study describes how local staff in Malawi collected, analyzed and interpreted quality assessment data to identify opportunities to improve family planning services. (excerpt)

Report Author(s): 
Lin Y | Franco LM
Quality Assurance Project
ASSIST publication: 
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