Background: Measures of quality of care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) rarely include experience of care. This gap in service quality metrics may be driven by a lack of understanding of client and provider perspectives. Understanding these perspectives is a critical first step in not only improving metrics, but also in improving service delivery. This study identifies the items antenatal care (ANC) clients and health care providers in Tanzania associate with a quality ANC service and explores the experience of care domain from both client and provider perspectives.
Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with15 providers and 35 clients in Tanzania that included a free-listing activity to elicit items clients and providers associate with quality ANC services. We analyzed the free-listing for rank order and frequency to identify the most salient items, which were included in the second phase of data collection. We then conducted semi-structured interviews with a pile sort activity with the same 15 providers and 32 new clients to understand the importance of the items identified in the free-listing. We used a thematic analysis driven by the framework approach to analyze interview data.
Results: Both clients and providers perceived quality of ANC as being comprised of items related to experience of care, provision of care, and cross-cutting essential physical and human resources. The free-listing findings illuminated that the experience of care was equally important to clients and providers as the availability of physical and human resources and the content of the care delivered. In addition, clients and providers perceived that a positive patient care experience - marked by good communication, active listening, keeping confidentiality, and being spoken to politely - increased utilization of health services and improved health outcomes.
Conclusions: The experience of care in LMICs is an overlooked, yet critically important topic. Understanding the experience of care from those who receive and deliver services is key to measuring and improving the quality of ANC. Our research highlights the importance of incorporating experience of care into future quality improvement activities and quality measures. By doing so, we identify barriers and facilitating factors of practical use to policy-makers and governments in LMICs.