Towards improved health service quality in Tanzania: An approach to increase efficiency and effectiveness of routine supportive supervision

PLoS One. 2018 Sep 7;13(9):e0202735. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202735. eCollection 2018.


Effective supportive supervision of healthcare services is crucial for improving and maintaining quality of care. However, this process can be challenging in an environment with chronic shortage of qualified human resources, overburdened healthcare providers, multiple roles of district managers, weak supply chains, high donor fragmentation and inefficient allocation of limited financial resources. Operating in this environment, we systematically evaluated an approach developed in Tanzania to strengthen the implementation of routine supportive supervision of primary healthcare providers. The approach included a systematic quality assessment at health facilities using an electronic tool and subsequent result dissemination at council level. Mixed methods were used to compare the new supportive supervision approach with routine supportive supervision. Qualitative data was collected through in-depth interviews in three councils. Observational data and informal communication as well as secondary data complemented the data set. Additionally, an economic costing analysis was carried out in the same councils. Compared to routine supportive supervision, the new approach increased healthcare providers' knowledge and skills, as well as quality of data collected and acceptance of supportive supervision amongst stakeholders involved. It also ensured better availability of evidence for follow-up actions, including budgeting and planning, and higher stakeholder motivation and ownership of subsequent quality improvement measures. The new approach reduced time and cost spent during supportive supervision. This increased feasibility of supportive supervision and hence the likelihood of its implementation. Thus, the results presented together with previous findings suggested that if used as the standard approach for routine supportive supervision the new approach offers a suitable option to make supportive supervision more efficient and effective and therewith more sustainable. Moreover, the new approach also provides informed guidance to overcome several problems of supportive supervision and healthcare quality assessments in low- and middle income countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Health Facilities / economics
  • Health Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tanzania

Grants and funding

Novartis Foundation fully funded this study ( Funds were received by SwissTPH for implementation of the work conducted by SR. Novartis Foundation had no role in the design of the study and neither in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data nor in writing the manuscript. However, the funder (AA) reviewed and edited the final manuscript.