Improving Uptake and Use of Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests in the Context of Artemisinin Drug Resistance Containment in Eastern Myanmar: an Evaluation of Incentive Schemes among Informal Private Healthcare Providers


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Background: As efforts to contain artemisinin resistance and eliminate Plasmodium falciparum intensify, the accurate diagnosis and prompt effective treatment of malaria are increasingly needed in Myanmar and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have been shown to be safe, feasible, and effective at promoting appropriate treatment for suspected malaria, which are of particular importance to drug resistance containment. The informal private sector is often the first point of care for fever cases in malaria endemic areas across Myanmar and the GMS, but there is little published information about informal private provider practices, quality of service provision, or potential to contribute to malaria control and elimination efforts. This study tested different incentives to increase RDT use and improve the quality of care among informal private healthcare providers in Myanmar.
Methods: The study randomized six townships in the Mon and Shan states of rural Myanmar into three intervention arms: 1) RDT price subsidies, 2) price subsidies with product-related financial incentives, and 3) price subsidies with intensified information, education and counselling (IEC). The study assessed the uptake of RDT use in the communities by cross-sectional surveys of 3,150 households at baseline and six months post-intervention (6,400 households total, 832 fever cases). The study also used mystery clients among 171 providers to assess quality of service provision across intervention arms.
Results: The pilot intervention trained over 600 informal private healthcare providers. The study found a price subsidy with intensified IEC, resulted in the highest uptake of RDTs in the community, as compared to subsidies alone or merchandise-related financial incentives. Moreover, intensified IEC led to improvements in the quality of care, with mystery client surveys showing almost double the number of correct treatment following diagnostic test results as compared to a simple subsidy.
Conclusions: Results show that training and quality supervision of informal private healthcare providers can result in improved demand for, and appropriate use of RDTs in drug resistance containment areas in eastern Myanmar. Future studies should assess the sustainability of such interventions and the scale and level of intensity required over time as public sector service provision expands.