Development and use of clinical vignettes to assess injury care quality in Northern Malawi

John Whitaker, Lindani Chirwa , Boston Munthali , Albert Dube , Abena S. Amoah , Andrew JM Leather , Justine Davies

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Background: It is known that outcomes after injury care in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs) are poorer than those in high income countries. However, little is known about healthcare provider competency to deliver quality injury care in these settings. We developed and used clinical vignettes to evaluate injury care quality in an LMIC setting.

Method: Four serious injury scenarios, developed from agreed best practice, testing diagnostic and management skills, were piloted with high and low-income setting clinicians. Scenarios were used with primary and referral facility clinicians in Malawi. Participants described their clinical course of action (assessment, diagnostic, treatment and management approaches) for each scenario, registering one point per agreed best practice response. Mean percentage total scores were calculated and univariable and multivariable comparison made across provider groups, facility types, injury care frequency and training level.

Results: Fourteen Doctors, 51 Clinical Officers, 20 Medical Assistants from 11 facilities participated. Mean percentage total vignette scores varied significantly with clinician provider group (Doctors 63.1% vs Clinical Officers 49.6%, p<0.001, Clinical Officers vs Medical Assistants 39.4% p=0.001). Important care aspects most frequently included or omitted were: following chest injury, 88.2% reported chest drain insertion, 7.1% checked for tracheal deviation; following penetrating abdominal injury and shock, 98.8% secured IV access, 0% mentioned tranexamic acid; following severe head injury, 88.2% proposed CT or neurosurgical transfer, 7.1% ensured normotension; and following isolated open lower leg fracture, 90.1% arranged orthopaedic consultation, 2.4% assessed distal neurological status.

Conclusion: These clinical vignettes proved easy to use and collected rich data. This supports their use for assessing and monitoring clinical care quality in other similar settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-805
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2021


  • Assessment
  • Developing countries
  • Low- and middle-income country
  • Quality of health care
  • Vignettes
  • Wounds and injuries


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