Original Research

Laboratory testing improves diagnosis and treatment outcomes in primary health care facilities

Jane Y. Carter, Orgenes E. Lema, Magdaline W. Wangai, Charles G. Munafu, Philip H. Rees, Jackson A. Nyamongo
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 1, No 1 | a8 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v1i1.8 | © 2012 Jane Y. Carter, Orgenes E. Lema, Magdaline W. Wangai, Charles G. Munafu, Philip H. Rees, Jackson A. Nyamongo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2011 | Published: 30 October 2012

About the author(s)

Jane Y. Carter, African Medical and Research Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya
Orgenes E. Lema, African Medical and Research Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya
Magdaline W. Wangai, African Medical and Research Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya
Charles G. Munafu, African Medical and Research Foundation, Kampala, Uganda
Philip H. Rees, Nairobi Hospital, Kenya
Jackson A. Nyamongo, Ministry of Health, Kenya


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Abstract

Objective: To determine if use of basic laboratory tests improves diagnosis and treatment outcomes in outpatients attending rural primary health care facilities.

Setting: Six rural health centres in Kenya.

Design: Cross-sectional study to observe change in diagnosis and treatment made by clinical officers after laboratory testing in outpatients attending six rural health centres in Kenya.

Subject: The diagnosis and treatment of 1134 patients attending outpatient services in six rural health centres were compared before and after basic laboratory testing. Essential clinical diagnostic equipment and laboratory tests were established at each health centre. Clinical officers and laboratory technicians received on-site refresher training in good diagnostic practices and laboratory procedures before the study began.

Results: Laboratory tests were ordered on 704 (62.1%) patients. Diagnosis and treatment were changed in 45% of tested patients who returned with laboratory results (21% of all patients attending the clinics). 166 (23.5%) patients did not return to the clinician for a final diagnosis and management decision after laboratory testing. Blood slide examination for malaria parasites, wet preparations, urine microscopy and stool microscopy resulted in most changes to diagnosis. There was no significant change in drug costs after laboratory testing. The greatest changes in numbers of recorded diseases following laboratory testing was for intestinal worms (53%) and malaria (21%).

Conclusion: Effective use of basic laboratory tests at primary health care level significantly improves diagnosis and patient treatment. Use of laboratory testing can be readily incorporated into routine clinical practice. On-site refresher training is an effective means of improving the quality of patient care and communication between clinical and laboratory staff.



Keywords

laboratory tests; outpatients; quality of care; refresher training; primary health care; Kenya

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