Background: In Malawi, passive partner notification is the mainstay method of partner notification (PN). Despite its wide use, the proportion of sexual partners referred for care through this method is very low. We aimed to increase the proportion of sexual partner referral through passive PN.
Methods: We implemented a quality improvement (QI) project at Bwaila STI unit in Lilongwe, Malawi between January and June 2017 using a pre- and post- intervention quasi-experimental study design. Pre-intervention, we conducted key-informant interviews and clinic observations and used the findings to design a QI project using expert opinion. The intervention included three change ideas: early start time of the clinic, shortening of the group health talk and expedited clinic flow for sexual partners. Each change idea was tested twice through 1-week long Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles using the model for improvement (MFI) and then combined and tested twice. Process data were collected and monitored using run charts. Post-intervention, we evaluated the proportion of sexual partners who presented to the clinic, to detect a 10% increase at 95% power and α=0.05, between pre- and post-intervention periods.
Results: The average duration of the group health talk dropped from 56 minutes to 38 minutes and the duration of clinic stay for sexual partners reduced by 45 minutes (from 1hour 36 minutes to 51 minutes). The average clinic start time improved from 09:02 hours to 08:17 hours. The proportion of sexual partner referral increased by 37% (P=0.04) - from 15.6% to 21.4%. We observed an upward trend in the proportion of sexual partners referred in the post-intervention period.
Conclusion: The yield of sexual partners through passive PN was improved using a simple QI intervention implemented using the MFI. However, the proportion of sexual partner referral remains suboptimal. More effort is required to increase the proportion of sexual partner referral in Malawi.
Keywords: Passive Partner Notification; Quality Improvement; STI and HIV partner referral.