From habits of attrition to modes of inclusion: enhancing the role of private practitioners in routine disease surveillance

BMC Health Serv Res. 2017 Aug 25;17(1):599. doi: 10.1186/s12913-017-2476-9.


Background: Private practitioners are the preferred first point of care in a majority of low and middle-income countries and in this position, best placed for the surveillance of diseases. However their contribution to routine surveillance data is marginal. This systematic review aims to explore evidence with regards to the role, contribution, and involvement of private practitioners in routine disease data notification. We examined the factors that determine the inclusion of, and the participation thereof of private practitioners in disease surveillance activities.

Methods: Literature search was conducted using the PubMed, Web of Knowledge, WHOLIS, and WHO-IRIS databases to identify peer-reviewed and gray full-text documents in English with no limits for year of publication or study design. Forty manuscripts were reviewed.

Results: The current participation of private practitioners in disease surveillance efforts is appalling. The main barriers to their participation are inadequate knowledge leading to unsatisfactory attitudes and misperceptions that influence their practices. Complicated reporting mechanisms with unclear guidelines, along with unsatisfactory attitudes on behalf of the government and surveillance program managers also contribute to the underreporting of cases. Infrastructural barriers especially the availability of computers and skilled human resources are critical to improving private sector participation in routine disease surveillance.

Conclusion: The issues identified are similar to those for underreporting within the Integrated infectious Disease Surveillance and Response systems (IDSR) which collects data mainly from public healthcare facilities. We recommend that surveillance program officers should provide periodic training, supportive supervision and offer regular feedback to the practitioners from both public as well as private sectors in order to improve case notification. Governments need to take leadership and foster collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors and most importantly exercise regulatory authority where needed.

Keywords: Barriers and facilitators; Disease surveillance; Private-practitioners participation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Disease Notification / standards
  • Disease Notification / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Private Sector / standards*
  • Public Health Surveillance*