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Use of standardised patients to assess quality of healthcare in Nairobi, Kenya: a pilot, cross-sectional study with international comparisons
  1. Benjamin Daniels1,
  2. Amy Dolinger1,
  3. Guadalupe Bedoya1,
  4. Khama Rogo2,
  5. Ana Goicoechea3,
  6. Jorge Coarasa2,
  7. Francis Wafula2,4,
  8. Njeri Mwaura2,
  9. Redemptar Kimeu5,
  10. Jishnu Das1,6
  1. 1 Development Economics Research Group, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2 Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3 Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA
  4. 4 Institute of Healthcare Management, Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya
  5. 5 Talana Specialists Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
  6. 6 Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jishnu Das; jdas1{at}


Introduction The quality of clinical care can be reliably measured in multiple settings using standardised patients (SPs), but this methodology has not been extensively used in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study validates the use of SPs for a variety of tracer conditions in Nairobi, Kenya, and provides new results on the quality of care in sampled primary care clinics.

Methods We deployed 14 SPs in private and public clinics presenting either asthma, child diarrhoea, tuberculosis or unstable angina. Case management guidelines and checklists were jointly developed with the Ministry of Health. We validated the SP method based on the ability of SPs to avoid detection or dangerous situations, without imposing a substantial time burden on providers. We also evaluated the sensitivity of quality measures to SP characteristics. We assessed quality of practice through adherence to guidelines and checklists for the entire sample, stratified by case and stratified by sector, and in comparison with previously published results from urban India, rural India and rural China.

Results Across 166 interactions in 42 facilities, detection rates and exposure to unsafe conditions were both zero. There were no detected outcome correlations with SP characteristics that would bias the results. Across all four conditions, 53% of SPs were correctly managed with wide variation across tracer conditions. SPs paid 76% less in public clinics, but proportions of correct management were similar to private clinics for three conditions and higher for the fourth. Kenyan outcomes compared favourably with India and China in all but the angina case.

Conclusions The SP method is safe and effective in the urban Kenyan setting for the assessment of clinical practice. The pilot results suggest that public providers in this setting provide similar rates of correct management to private providers at significantly lower out-of-pocket costs for patients. However, comparisons across countries are sensitive to the tracer condition considered.

  • standardized patients
  • mystery clients
  • health care providers
  • Kenya
  • Africa

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  • Contributors BD cleaned and analysed the data, and drafted and revised the paper. AD served as field coordinator throughout the project and analysed data. GB, KR, AG, JC and NM contributed to study design and field coordination. FW contributed to field coordination. RK contributed to study design and served as the lead SP trainer. JD contributed to study design, analysis, writing and revision, and is a guarantor.

  • Competing interests RK declares service as a paid consultant to the survey firm during the project.

  • Ethics approval African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), Reference AMREF-ESRC P94/2013.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All documentation and data will be made available on publication by direct request to the corresponding author.

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