Pandemic response in pluralistic health systems: A cross-sectional study of COVID-19 knowledge and practices among informal and formal primary care providers in Bihar, India

Krishna D. Rao, Japneet Kaur, Michael A. Peters, Navneet Kumar, Priya Nanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Responding to pandemics is challenging in pluralistic health systems. This study assesses COVID-19 knowledge and case management of informal providers (IPs), trained practitioners of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) and Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) medical doctors providing primary care services in rural Bihar, India. This was a cross-sectional study of primary care providers conducted via telephone between 1 and 15 July 2020. Primary care providers from 224 villages in 34 districts across Bihar, India. 452 IPs, 57 AYUSH practitioners and 38 doctors (including 23 government doctors) were interviewed from a census of 1138 primary care providers used by community members that could be reached by telephone. Providers were interviewed using a structured questionnaire with choice-based answers to gather information on (1) change in patient care seeking, (2) source of COVID-19 information, (3) knowledge on COVID-19 spread, symptoms and methods for prevention and (4) clinical management of COVID-19. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, 72% of providers reported a decrease in patient visits. Most IPs and other private primary care providers reported receiving no COVID-19 related engagement with government or civil society agencies. For them, the principal source of COVID-19 information was television and newspapers. IPs had reasonably good knowledge of typical COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, and at levels similar to doctors. However, there was low stated compliance among IPs (16%) and qualified primary care providers (15% of MBBS doctors and 12% of AYUSH practitioners) with all WHO recommended management practices for suspect COVID-19 cases. Nearly half of IPs and other providers intended to treat COVID-19 suspects without referral. Poor management practices of COVID-19 suspects by rural primary care providers weakens government pandemic control efforts. Government action of providing information to IPs, as well as engaging them in contact tracing or public health messaging can strengthen pandemic control efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere047334
JournalBMJ open
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 30 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • primary care
  • quality in health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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