Background: In India, amidst the increasing number of health programmes, there are concerns about the performance of frontline health workers (FLHW). We assessed the time utilisation and factors affecting the work of frontline health workers from South India.
Methods: This is a mixed methods study using time and motion (TAM) direct observations and qualitative enquiry among frontline/community health workers. These included 43 female and 6 male multipurpose health workers (namely, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and male-MPHWs), 12 nutrition and health workers (Anganwadi workers, AWWs) and 53 incentive-based community health workers (accredited social health activists, ASHAs). We conducted the study in two phases. In the formative phase, we conducted an in-depth inductive investigation to develop observation checklists and qualitative tools. The main study involved deductive approach for TAM observations. This enabled us to observe a larger sample to capture variations across non-tribal and tribal regions and different health cadres. For the main study, we developed GPRS-enabled android-based application to precisely record time, multi-tasking and field movement. We conducted non-participatory direct observations (home to home) for consecutively 6 days for each participant. We conducted in-depth interviews with all the participants and 33 of their supervisors and relevant officials. We conducted six focus group discussions (FGDs) with ASHAs and one FGD with ANMs to validate preliminary findings. We established a mechanism for quality assurance of data collection and analysis. We analysed the data separately for each cadre and stratified for non-tribal and tribal regions.
Results: On any working day, the ANMs spent median 7:04 h, male-MPHWs spent median 5:44 h and AWWs spent median 6:50 h on the job. The time spent on the job was less among the FLHWs from tribal areas as compared to those from non-tribal areas. ANMs and AWWs prioritised maternal and child health, while male-MPHWs were involved in seasonal diseases and school health. ASHAs visited homes to provide maternal health, basic curative care, and follow-up of tuberculosis patients. The results describe issues related with work planning, time management and several systemic, community-based and personnel factors affecting work of FLHWs.
Conclusion: TAM study with mixed methods can help researchers as well as managers to periodically review work patterns, devise appropriate job responsibilities and improve the efficiency of health workers.