Health impact assessment and short-term medical missions: a methods study to evaluate quality of care

BMC Health Serv Res. 2008 Jun 2:8:121. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-8-121.


Background: Short-term medical missions (STMMs) are a well-established means of providing health care to the developing world. Despite over 250 million dollars and thousands of volunteer hours dedicated to STMMs, there is a lack of standardized evaluation to assess patient safety, quality control, and mission impact. The objective of this project is to design and implement an assessment tool that defines objective parameters of quality of care as identified by STMMs.

Methods: The study was conducted in 3 phases: 1) Base-need analysis to determine factors critical to the quality of STMMs, 2) Design of 5 surveys for mission personnel and patients to enable 360-degree evaluation based on factors from phase 1, and 3) Field testing of the surveys with 5 STMMs.

Results: An evaluation tool was created assessing 6 major and 30 minor factors identified as important to the quality of STMMs. 5 mission directors, 43 personnel, 10 local hosts, and 55 patients completed the surveys. Of the 6 major measures of quality, missions performed best in Cost (mean score 86%), and Impact (84%). The poorest performance was in Education (64%). Efficiency, Sustainability, and Preparedness showed mean scores of 76%, 77%, and 73%, respectively.

Conclusion: Our study provides a novel standardized tool for STMM evaluation. Use of the assessment instrument identified areas of strength and weakness of a particular mission, and delineated general trends in performance compared to other STMMs. We anticipate that the use of this tool may improve the quality of care provided by missions, and stimulate solution-sharing and scholarly discussion among missions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Medical Missions / organization & administration
  • Medical Missions / standards*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*