Kevany S, Khumalo-Sakutukwa G, Singh B, Chingono A, Morin S, NIMH Project Accept Study Team. Global Health Diplomacy, Monitoring & Evaluation, and the Importance of Quality Assurance & Control: Findings from NIMH Project Accept (HPTN 043). PLoS One. 2016, 11: e0149335. PMC4762940
BACKGROUND: Provision and scale-up of high quality, evidence-based services is essential for successful international HIV prevention interventions in order to generate and maintain intervention uptake, study integrity and participant trust, from both health service delivery and diplomatic perspectives. METHODS: We developed quality assurance (QAC) procedures to evaluate staff fidelity to a cluster-randomized trial of the NIMH Project Accept (HPTN 043) assessing the effectiveness of a community-based voluntary counseling and testing strategy. The intervention was comprised of three components-Mobile Voluntary Counseling and Testing (MVCT), Community Mobilization (CM) and Post-Test Support Services (PTSS). QAC procedures were based on standardized criteria, and were designed to assess both provider skills and adherence to the intervention protocol. Supervisors observed a random sample of 5% to 10% of sessions each month and evaluated staff against multiple criteria on scales of 1-5. A score of 5 indicated 100% adherence, 4 indicated 95% adherence, and 3 indicated 90% adherence. Scores below 3 were considered unsatisfactory, and protocol deviations were discussed with the respective staff. RESULTS: During the first year of the intervention, the mean scores of MVCT and CM staff across the 5 study sites were 4 (95% adherence) or greater and continued to improve over time. Mean QAC scores for the PTSS component were lower and displayed greater fluctuations. Challenges to PTSS staff were identified as coping with the wide range of activities in the PTSS component and the novelty of the PTSS process. QAC fluctuations for PTSS were also associated with new staff hires or changes in staff responsibilities. Through constant staff monitoring and support, by Year 2, QAC scores for PTSS activities had reached those of MVCT and CM. CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of a large-sale, evidence based HIV intervention requires extensive QAC to ensure implementation effectiveness. Ongoing appraisal of study staff across sites ensures consistent and high quality delivery of all intervention components, in keeping with the goals of the study protocol, while also providing a forum for corrective feedback, additional supervision and retraining of staff. QAC ensures staff fidelity to study procedures and is critical to the successful delivery of multi-site HIV prevention interventions, as well as the delivery of services scaled up in programmatic situations.