Background: Surgical site infections (SSIs) cause a significant global public health burden in low and middle-income countries. Most SSIs develop after patient discharge and may go undetected. We assessed the feasibility and diagnostic accuracy of an mHealth-community health worker (CHW) home-based telemedicine intervention to diagnose SSIs in women who delivered via caesarean section in rural Rwanda.
Methods: This prospective cohort study included women who underwent a caesarean section at Kirehe District Hospital between September 2019 and March 2020. At postoperative day 10 (±3 days), a trained CHW visited the woman at home, provided wound care and transmitted a photo of the wound to a remote general practitioner (GP) via WhatsApp. The GP reviewed the photo and made an SSI diagnosis. The next day, the woman returned to the hospital for physical examination by an independent GP, whose SSI diagnosis was considered the gold standard for our analysis. We describe the intervention process indicators and report the sensitivity and specificity of the telemedicine-based diagnosis.
Results: Of 787 women included in the study, 91.4% (n=719) were located at their home by the CHW and all of them (n=719, 100%) accepted the intervention. The full intervention was completed, including receipt of GP telemedicine diagnosis within 1 hour, for 79.0% (n=623). The GPs diagnosed 30 SSIs (4.2%) through telemedicine and 38 SSIs (5.4%) through physical examination. The telemedicine sensitivity was 36.8% and specificity was 97.6%. The negative predictive value was 96.4%.
Conclusions: Implementation of an mHealth-CHW home-based intervention in rural Rwanda and similar settings is feasible. Patients' acceptance of the intervention was key to its success. The telemedicine-based SSI diagnosis had a high negative predictive value but a low sensitivity. Further studies must explore strategies to improve accuracy, such as accompanying wound images with clinical data or developing algorithms using machine learning.
Keywords: Health systems; Maternal health; Obstetrics; Other infection, disease, disorder, or injury; Surgery.
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