Provision of timely, safe, and affordable surgical care is an essential component of any high-quality health system. Increasingly, it is recognized that poor quality of care in the perioperative period (before, during, and after surgery) may contribute to significant excess mortality and morbidity. Therefore, improving access to surgical procedures alone will not address the disparities in surgical outcomes globally until the quality of perioperative care is addressed. We aimed to identify key barriers to quality perioperative care delivery for 3 “Bellwether” procedures (cesarean delivery, emergency laparotomy, and long-bone fracture fixation) in 5 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Ten hospitals representing secondary and tertiary facilities from 5 LMICs were purposefully selected: 2 upper-middle income (Colombia and South Africa); 2 lower-middle income (Sri Lanka and Tanzania); and 1 lower income (Uganda). We used a rapid appraisal design (pathway mapping, ethnography, and interviews) to map out and explore the complexities of the perioperative pathway and care delivery for the Bellwether procedures. The framework approach was used for data analysis, with triangulation across different data sources to identify barriers in the country and pattern matching to identify common barriers across the 5 LMICs.
We developed 25 pathway maps, undertook >30 periods of observation, and held >40 interviews with patients and clinical staff. Although the extent and impact of the barriers varied across the LMIC settings, 4 key common barriers to safe and effective perioperative care were identified: (1) the fragmented nature of the care pathways, (2) the limited human and structural resources available for the provision of care, (3) the direct and indirect costs of care for patients (even in health systems for which care is ostensibly free of charge), and (4) patients’ low expectations of care.
We identified key barriers to effective perioperative care in LMICs. Addressing these barriers is important if LMIC health systems are to provide safe, timely, and affordable provision of the Bellwether procedures.
Question: What are the key barriers to delivering quality perioperative care for patients undergoing a Bellwether procedure in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)?
Findings: We found 4 key barriers to the delivery of timely and safe perioperative care: fragmented care pathways, limited human and structural resources, the cost of care to patients, and the patients’ overall low expectations of care.
Meaning: To improve the quality and safety of surgical care and patient outcomes, work is required to overcome the identified barriers in perioperative care.