Volume 18, Issue 3 e1003479 (2021)
Despite widespread availability of HIV treatment, patient outcomes differ across facilities. We propose and evaluate an approach to measure quality of HIV care at health facilities in South Africa's national HIV program using routine laboratory data.
<jats:title>Methods and findings</jats:title>
Data were extracted from South Africa's National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) Corporate Data Warehouse. All CD4 counts, viral loads (VLs), and other laboratory tests used in HIV monitoring were linked, creating a validated patient identifier. We constructed longitudinal HIV care cascades for all patients in the national HIV program, excluding data from the Western Cape and very small facilities. We then estimated for each facility in each year (2011 to 2015) the following cascade measures identified a priori as reflecting quality of HIV care: median CD4 count among new patients; retention 12 months after presentation; 12-month retention among patients established in care; viral suppression; CD4 recovery; monitoring after an elevated VL. We used factor analysis to identify an underlying measure of quality of care, and we assessed the persistence of this quality measure over time. We then assessed spatiotemporal variation and facility and population predictors in a multivariable regression context.
We analyzed data on 3,265 facilities with a median (IQR) annual size of 441 (189 to 988) lab-monitored HIV patients. Retention 12 months after presentation increased from 42% to 47% during the study period, and viral suppression increased from 66% to 79%, although there was substantial variability across facilities. We identified an underlying measure of quality of HIV care that correlated with all cascade measures except median CD4 count at presentation. Averaging across the 5 years of data, this quality score attained a reliability of 0.84. Quality was higher for clinics (versus hospitals), in rural (versus urban) areas, and for larger facilities. Quality was lower in high-poverty areas but was not independently associated with percent Black. Quality increased by 0.49 (95% CI 0.46 to 0.53) standard deviations from 2011 to 2015, and there was evidence of geospatial autocorrelation (<jats:italic>p</jats:italic> < 0.001). The study's limitations include an inability to fully adjust for underlying patient risk, reliance on laboratory data which do not capture all relevant domains of quality, potential for errors in record linkage, and the omission of Western Cape.
We observed persistent differences in HIV care and treatment outcomes across South African facilities. Targeting low-performing facilities for additional support could reduce overall burden of disease.
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