Assessment of a quality improvement intervention to strengthen pharmaceutical human resources and improve availability and use of HIV medicines in Uganda
Inadequate medication dispensing and management by healthcare providers can contribute to poor outcomes among HIV-positive patients. Gaps in medication availability, often associated with pharmacy workforce shortages, are an important barrier to retention in HIV care in Uganda.
An intervention to address pharmacy staffing constraints through strengthening pharmaceutical management, dispensing practices, and general competencies of facility clinical and pharmacy staff was implemented in 14 facilities in three districts in eastern Uganda. Teams of staff were organized in each facility and supported to apply quality improvement (QI) methods to address deficits in availability and rational use of HIV drugs.
To evaluate the intervention, baseline and end line data were collected 24 months apart. Dispensing practices, clinical wellness and adherence to antiretrovirals improved by 45%, 28% and 20% from baseline to end line, respectively. All clients at end line received the medications prescribed, and medications were correctly, completely and legibly labeled more often. Clients better understood when, how much and for how long they were supposed to take their prescribed medicines at end line.
Pharmaceutical management practices also improved from baseline in most categories by statistically significant margins. Facilities significantly improved on correctly recording stock information about antiretroviral drugs (53% vs 100%, p<0.0001). Coinciding with existing staff taking on pharmaceutical roles, facilities improved management of unwanted and expired drugs, notably by optimizing use of existing health workers and making pharmaceutical management processes more efficient.
Implementation of this improvement intervention in the 14 facilities appeared to have a positive impact on client outcomes, pharmacy department management and providers’ self-reported knowledge of QI methods. These results were achieved at a cost of about US$5.50 per client receiving HIV services at participating facilities.