Background: The accuracy of malaria case reporting is challenging due to restricted human and material resources in many countries. The reporting often depends on the clinical diagnosis because of the scarcity of microscopic examinations. Particularly, clinical malaria case reporting by primary health care facilities (local clinics), which constitutes the baseline data of surveillance, has never previously been sufficiently evaluated. In order to improve the malaria reporting system to the level required to eventually eliminate this disease, this study estimates the gaps between the records of clinics and government statistics regarding the incidence of clinical malaria, and then also examines some factors that might explain the data discrepancy, including such variables as clinic staffing and record keeping.
Methods: All medical records for outpatients in 2007, handwritten by nurses, were collected from local clinics in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. The all-monthly clinical malaria cases were then recalculated. The corresponding monthly data in official statistics were provided by the government. Next, in order to estimate any data discrepancy, the ratio of the cases recorded at clinics to the cases reported to the government was determined on the monthly basis. Finally, the associations between the monthly discrepancy and other variables were evaluated by a multiple regression analysis.
Results: The mean data discrepancy between the records of clinics and government statistics was 21.2% (n = 96). Significant associations were observed between the discrepancy and the average number of patients (coefficient: 0.05, 95%CI: 0.31, 0.07), illegible handwriting (coefficient: 0.09, 95%CI: 0.04, 0.15), the use of tally sheets (coefficient:-0.38, 95%CI: -0.54, -0.22), and the clinic level (coefficient:-0.48, 95%CI:-0.89,-0.06).
Conclusion: The findings of this study demonstrate the huge data discrepancy between the records of clinics and government statistics in regard to clinical malaria case reporting. Moreover, the high numbers of patients, illegible writing, the disuse of tally sheets, and insufficient resources at some clinics are likely to be related to the increase in the discrepancy. The clinical malaria case reporting at the local clinic level therefore urgently needs improvement, in order to achieve both better malaria surveillance and to also eventually eliminate this disease in the Solomon Islands.