Impact of a district-wide health center strengthening intervention on healthcare utilization in rural Rwanda: Use of interrupted time series analysis

Hari S. Iyer*, Lisa R. Hirschhorn, Marie Paul Nisingizwe, Emmanuel Kamanzi, Peter C. Drobac, Felix C. Rwabukwisi, Michael R. Law, Andrew Muhire, Vincent Rusanganwa, Paulin Basinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Evaluations of health systems strengthening (HSS) interventions using observational data are rarely used for causal inference due to limited data availability. Routinely collected national data allow use of quasi-experimental designs such as interrupted time series (ITS). Rwanda has invested in a robust electronic health management information system (HMIS) that captures monthly healthcare utilization data. We used ITS to evaluate impact of an HSS intervention to improve primary health care facility readiness on health service utilization in two rural districts of Rwanda. Methods: We used controlled ITS analysis to compare changes in healthcare utilization at health centers (HC) that received the intervention (n = 13) to propensity score matched non-intervention health centers in Rwanda (n = 86) from January 2008 to December 2012. HC support included infrastructure renovation, salary support, medical equipment, referral network strengthening, and clinical training. Baseline quarterly mean outpatient visit rates and population density were used to model propensity scores. The intervention began in May 2010 and was implemented over a twelve-month period. We used monthly healthcare utilization data from the national Rwandan HMIS to study changes in the (1) number of facility deliveries per 10,000 women, (2) number of referrals for high risk pregnancy per 100,000 women, and (3) the number of outpatient visits performed per 1,000 catchment population. Results: PHIT HC experienced significantly higher monthly delivery rates post-HSS during the April-June season than comparison (3.19/10,000, 95% CI: [0.27, 6.10]). In 2010, this represented a 13% relative increase, and in 2011, this represented a 23% relative increase. The post-HSS change in monthly rate of high-risk pregnancies referred increased slightly in intervention compared to control HC (0.03/10,000, 95% CI: [-0.007, 0.06]). There was a small immediate post-HSS increase in outpatient visit rates in intervention compared to control HC (6.64/1,000, 95% CI: [-13.52, 26.81]). Conclusion: We failed to find strong evidence of post-HSS increases in outpatient visit rates or referral rates at health centers, which could be explained by small sample size and high baseline nation-wide health service coverage. However, our findings demonstrate that high quality routinely collected health facility data combined with ITS can be used for rigorous policy evaluation in resource-limited settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0182418
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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