Timely identification and management of intrapartum complications could significantly reduce maternal deaths, intrapartum stillbirths, and newborn deaths due to hypoxia. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies monitoring of labor using the paper partograph as a high-priority intervention for identifying abnormities in labor and fetal well-being. This article describes a mixed-method, quasi-experimental study to assess the effectiveness of an Android tablet-based electronic, labor clinical decision-support application (ePartogram) in limited-resource settings.
The study, conducted in Kenya from October 2016 to May 2017, allocated 12 hospitals and health centers to an intervention (ePartogram) or comparison (paper partograph) group. Skilled birth attendants (SBAs) in both groups received a 2-day refresher training in labor management and partograph use. The intervention group received an additional 1-day orientation on use and care of the Android-based ePartogram app. All outcomes except one compare post-ePartogram intervention versus paper partograph controls. The exception is outcome of early perinatal mortality pre- and post-ePartogram introduction in intervention sites compared to control sites. We used log binomial regression to analyze the primary outcome of the study, suboptimal fetal outcomes. We also analyzed for secondary outcomes (SBAs performing recommended actions), and conducted in-depth interviews with facility in-charges and SBAs to ascertain acceptability and adoptability of the ePartogram.
We compared data from 842 clients in active labor using ePartograms with data from 1,042 clients monitored using a paper partograph. SBAs using ePartograms were more likely than those using paper partographs to take action to maintain normal labor, such as ambulation, feeding, and fluid intake, and to address abnormal measurements of fetal well-being (14.7% versus 5.3%, adjusted relative risk=4.00, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.95–8.19). Use of the ePartogram was associated with a 56% (95% CI=27%–73%) lower likelihood of suboptimal fetal outcomes than the paper partograph. Users of the ePartogram were more likely to be compliant with routine labor observations. SBAs stated that the technology was easy to use but raised concerns about its use at high-volume sites. Further research is needed to evaluate costs and benefit and to incorporate recent WHO guidance on labor management.
ePartogram use was associated with improvements in adherence to recommendations for routine labor care and a reduction in adverse fetal outcomes, with providers reporting adoptability without undue effort. Continued development of the ePartogram, including incorporating new clinical rules from the 2018 WHO recommendations on intrapartum care, will improve labor monitoring and quality care at all health system levels.