Background: Reliable, timely information is the foundation of decision making for functioning health systems; the quality of decision making rests on quality data. Routine monitoring, reporting, and review of cesarean section (CS) indications, decision-to-delivery intervals, and partograph use are important elements of quality improvement for maternity services.
Methods: In 2009 and 2010, a sample of CS records from calendar year 2008 was reviewed at nine facilities in Bangladesh, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Uganda. Data from patient records and hospital registers were collected on key aspects of care such as timing of key events, indications, partograph use, maternal and fetal outcomes. Qualitative interviews were conducted with key informants at all study sites to provide contextual background about CS services and record keeping practices.
Results: A total of 2,941 records were reviewed and 57 key informant interviews were conducted. Patient record-keeping systems were of varying quality across study sites: at five sites, more than 20% of records could not be located. Across all sites, patient files were missing key aspects of CS care: timing of key events (e.g., examination, decision to perform CS), administration of prophylactic antibiotics, maternal complications, and maternal and fetal outcomes. Rates of partograph use were low at six sites: 0 to 23.9% of patient files at these sites had a completed partograph on file, and among those found, 2.1% to 65.1% were completed correctly. Information on fetal outcomes was missing in up to 40% of patient files.
Conclusions: Deficits in the quality of CS patient records across a broad range of health facilities in low-resource settings in four sub-Saharan Africa countries and Bangladesh indicate an urgent need to improve record keeping.