Kondowani Kawaza handing over a computer toolkit to Malawi Ministry of Health rep.

Prof Kondwani Kawaza (NEST Program Co-PI) handing over a maintenance toolkit to the Minister of Health, Honourable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda.

NEST’s Malawi team partnered with the Ministry of Health to improve data collection in Malawi through a program that provides computers and REDCap training to data collectors at the facility level. 

The Minister of Health, Honorable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, was presented with a symbolic computer donation by Professor Kondwani Kawaza (NEST Program Co-PI) on March 24, 2022, at the Capitol Hill in Lilongwe. This gesture represents the beginning of the program aimed at improving data collection.

Eliminating the Data Collection Backlog

In Malawi, all facilities have had a backlog of data due to centralized, manual data collection processes. As one of the first participants in the NEST program’s data collection and entry efforts, facilities in Malawi identified key ways to improve the program’s data collection systems.

The manual data collection processes included the facilities sending hard copies of collected data to the NEST Central office every month for the data clerks at the office to enter the same data into the REDCap system. It became apparent that this system resulted in delays in data entry and use.

A decision was made to restructure the system so that data entry happens at the facility level, saving resources, energy, and time. The NEST program donated desktop computers to all the NEST-supported facilities to support this improvement to ensure that data entry happens at the facility level.

Tools to Maintain Computers

Maintenance, a cornerstone of NEST’s practical approach to technology efforts, was also a part of this new data collection program. Computer maintenance officers were equipped with knowledge and skills to do planned preventive maintenance and repairs on the equipment associated with the data collection efforts. 

Once trained, there was a request for the necessary tools to carry out the maintenance and repairs. NEST assisted maintenance departments by providing them with toolkits. 

Msandeni giving an overview on NEST360

Dr. Msandeni Chiume Kayuni stressing a point during one of the trainings.

REDCap training for Computer-based Data Collection 

After the computer equipment was allocated to the 37 NEST facilities in Malawi through the Ministry of Health’s Central Monitoring and Evaluation Division (CMED) was only the first step. The data clerks at the facilities who work to collect NEST data were provided training, in addition to the computers, to streamline their work. 

For close to three years, these clerks used hard copies to collect client-level data, which were then sent to NEST central office monthly. Once the files were at the office, they were then entered into the REDcap system by NEST data officers. This data collection method created a backlog, apart from duplicating the data entry process – first from the source documents into the case report forms and then from case report forms into the REDCap system.

Computer Distribution

NEST bought and donated computers in all 37 facilities to ease this process. Before the computers were donated, the desk officers were equipped with knowledge and skills on how to use REDCap.

Quality Improvement for Newborn Care in Malawi

Part of the data collected by NEST includes information from Quality Improvement visits that inform hospitals and their teams where improvements can be made. 

Every quarter, with support from NEST360, the Ministry of Health conducts joint quality improvement supportive supervision visits in all the NEST program-supported facilities. QI zonal teams visit the facilities to see progress made from the previous visits and identify other gaps that require intervention. The teams act as facilitators (not assessors) in helping the facilities to find the root cause of the challenges being faced and then develop change ideas that can be implemented. This year’s first quality improvement visits happened in March, and the visits were a success.