Background: One of the challenges to implementing clinical practice guidelines is the need to adapt guidelines to the local context and identify barriers to their uptake. Several models of framework are available to consider for use in guideline adaptation.
Methods: We completed a multiphase study to explore the implementation of maternal health guidelines in Kosovo, focusing on determinants of uptake and methods to contextualize for local use. The study involved a survey, individual interviews, focus groups, and a consensus meeting with relevant stakeholders, including clinicians (obstetricians, midwives), managers, researchers, and policy makers from the national Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization office in Pristina, Kosovo.
Results: Participants identified several important barriers to implementation. First, lack of communication between clinicians and ministry representatives was seen as leading to duplication of effort in creating or adapting guidelines, as well as substantial mistrust between clinicians and policy makers. Second, there was a lack of communication across clinical groups that provide obstetric care and a lack of integration across the entire healthcare system, including rural and urban centers. This fragmentation was thought to have directly resulted from the war in 1998 - 1999. Third, the conflict substantially and adversely affected the healthcare infrastructure in Kosovo, which has resulted in an inability to monitor quality of care across the country. Furthermore, the impact on infrastructure has affected the ability to access required medications consistently and to smoothly transfer patients from rural to urban centers. Another issue raised during this project was the appropriateness of including guideline recommendations perceived to be 'aspirational'.
Conclusions: Implementing clinical practice guidelines in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) requires consideration of several specific barriers. Particularly pertinent to this study were the effects of recent conflict and the resulting fragmentation of healthcare and communication strategies among relevant stakeholders. However, as Kosovo rebuilds and invests in infrastructure after the conflict, there is a tremendous opportunity to create comprehensive, thoughtful strategies to monitor and improve quality of care. To avoid duplication of effort, it may be beneficial for LMICs to share information on assessing barriers as well as on guideline implementation strategies.