Health data can be useful for effective service delivery, decision making, and evaluating existing programs in order to maintain high quality healthcare. Studies have shown variability in data quality from national health management information systems (HMIS) in sub-Saharan Africa, which threatens utility of these data as a tool to improve health systems.
As national antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes scale up, it is essential that information is complete, timely and accurate for site monitoring and national planning. This study assessed the quality of quarterly aggregate summary data for April to June 2006 compiled and reported by ART facilities as compared to the "gold standard" facility summary data compiled independently by the Ministry of Health supervision team. The national summary using the site reports resulted in a 12% undercount in the national total number of persons on first-line treatment. While many sites are able to generate complete data summaries, the accuracy of facility reports is not yet adequate for national monitoring. The Ministry of Health and its partners should continue to identify and support interventions such as supportive supervision to build sites' capacity to maintain and compile quality data to ensure that accurate information is available for site monitoring and national planning.
Background: High quality program data is critical for managing, monitoring, and evaluating national HIV treatment programs. By 2009, the Malawi Ministry of Health had initiated more than 270,000 patients on HIV treatment at 377 sites.