Impact Evaluation: Assessing the Effectiveness of Telepsychiatry Consultations in Pakistan
Grant award: CAD 197,628
In Pakistan, the AKDN eHealth Programme offers telepsychiatry services at its health centres in Chitral and Gilgit. Patients at these facilities benefit from live teleconsultations in Psychiatry offered by specialists at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi.
The Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan (AKHS, P); Aga Khan University (AKU); AKDN eHRC and faculty from Dalhousie University, Canada are collaborating on a research study to evaluate the effectiveness of telepsychiatry services at the Aga Khan Booni Medical Centre (AKBMC), Chitral and the Gilgit Medical Centre (GMC), Gilgit.
In 2015, approval was obtained from AKU’s ethical review committee; equipment was procured; algorithms and database architecture of the data collection application were designed; mobile-based data collection application was developed and tested; data collection tools were developed and translated, and content was validated through pilot testing. Data collectors for AKBMC and GMC were recruited and trained on administering the data collection application.
The data collection tools will assist the research team to assess patients’ teleconsultation experience in terms of increased accessibility and improved quality of care, and reduced cost for patients in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral districts.
Based on the results of the pilot test, the research tools will be revised and finalized for optimal use, after which the data collection process will initiate. In 2016, refresher trainings will be conducted for data collectors. The data collection process will be monitored and evaluated, data will be analyzed and the findings will be disseminated.
A few challenges were also encountered and addressed. While initiated on time, the staff recruitment and equipment procurement process was delayed due to lack of suitable candidates needed for the challenging remote study settings. Therefore, the positions had to be advertised again. The screening process of selected candidates involved multiple departments which led to delays. Socio-political instability in Karachi led to the rescheduling of planned activities. The pilot testing of the study instrument was also delayed because of extreme weather conditions at the data collection sites.
This evaluation study will be conducted with mixed methodology research approach using quantitative and qualitative data collection tools. Funded by Global Affairs Canada and the Aga Khan Foundation, Canada, the study initiated in April 2015 and will conclude in January 2017.