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The value of case reports in democratising evidence from resource-limited settings: results of an exploratory survey

Authors
  • Balinska, Marta A.1
  • Watts, Richard A.2
  • 1 Médecins Sans Frontières Austria, Taborstrasse 10, Vienna, 1020, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
  • 2 University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom , Norwich (United Kingdom)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Health Research Policy and Systems
Publisher
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jul 20, 2020
Volume
18
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1186/s12961-020-00592-y
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

BackgroundFollowing a knowledge management analysis, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – a medical humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) – identified significant loss of medical knowledge from the field, owing primarily to the absence of a platform on which to share clinical lessons learned in humanitarian and resource-limited settings (HRLS). Wishing to address these missed opportunities to retain important scientific and pragmatic knowledge, the NGO has begun to actively encourage its clinicians to publish case reports/series that bring new and/or practical insights of benefit to patients and population groups. In parallel, we wished to obtain a clearer understanding of how case reports (CRs)/series can best play their role as ‘first-line evidence’ from HRLS, especially in areas suffering from a significant lack of data.MethodsWe developed a survey with closed and open questions on ‘The value of CRs from HRLS’ to explore primarily (1) the reasons why this form of evidence from HRLS is often lacking, (2) what makes a case report/series worth sharing with the wider global health community, and (3) how we can ensure that published case reports/series reach their target audience.ResultsOver a 6-month period, 1115 health professionals responded to the survey. Participants included clinicians and public health specialists from all over the world, with a majority based in Africa. The main reason cited for the dearth of CRs from HRLS was that practitioners are simply not writing and/or submitting reports (as versus having their papers rejected) due mainly to (1) a lack of skills and (2) time constraints. A large majority of respondents felt the CRs are a valuable tool for HRLS given their ability to discuss how cases are managed with rudimentary means as well as to draw attention to emerging or underestimated public health problems and neglected populations.ConclusionWe conclude that the clinical knowledge gained in resource-challenged settings is being underutilised in the interest of patients and global health. Consequently, clinicians in HRLS need greater access to basic training in scientific investigation and writing in addition to awareness as to the potential value of sharing their clinical experience with a view to broadening evidence production from high-income to low-income settings.

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