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Assessing the value of Western Cape Provincial Government health administrative data and electronic pharmacy records in ascertaining medicine use during pregnancy

U Mehta
A Heekes
E Kalk
A Boulle


Background. In African settings, where there is a high disease burden, there is a need to improve the science of documenting and analysing accurate information regarding medicine exposures in women immediately before and during pregnancy to assess the extent of use and safety in pregnant women and their unborn children.

Objectives. To compare evidence of medicine use during pregnancy, as documented in paper-based clinical records (maternity case records (MCRs)) against electronic health information resources (Provincial Health Data Centre (PHDC)) and assess the level of concordance between the two as part of baseline investigations before piloting a provincial pregnancy exposure registry and birth defect surveillance system. The PHDC consolidates electronic clinical and pharmacy data.

Methods. A folder review of completed pregnancies between November 2013 and January 2016 was conducted on randomly selected MCRs from midwife-run obstetric units and a secondary maternity hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Medication exposures in the MCR were captured and compared with a customised PHDC data extract. The type and timing of drug exposures were compared. Total exposures were compiled from all data sources.

Results. Two hundred and six MCRs from three facilities were sampled: 83 women had documented antiretroviral therapy (ART) exposure; all but 1 (1%) had been recorded in the PHDC extract. There was no evidence of ART use in the MCRs of 4 (5%) cases, despite evidence in the PHDC. There were imprecise drug names in the MCRs of 14 (17%) ART patients, discordant dates of onset between the MCRs and PHDC extracts in 10/83 (12%) and inaccurate medicine names and incorrect dates in 1 (1%) case each. Nine of 10 (90%) women who were administered antituberculosis medication were recorded in the PHDC extract. Ten of 21 (48%) isoniazid preventive therapy treatments appeared in the MCRs and PHDC; 9 (42%) in the PHDC only and 2 (10%) in the MCRs only. Half (n=18/36) of all antibiotic use was reflected only in the MCRs, while 13/36 (36%) appeared only in the PHDC extract. In the former cases, antibiotics used for treatment of sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections were dispensed from ward stock and not captured electronically. Antibiotics reflected only in the PHDC were either dispensed at a referral facility or before the first recorded antenatal clinic visit. Folic acid and iron were mostly documented in the MCR only (n=79/99 (80%) and n=107/128 (84%), respectively). However, analgesics and antihistamines more often appeared in the PHDC extract only (n=11/16 (73%) and n=5/5 (100%), respectively).

Conclusions. The PHDC extract provided a better and more complete reflection of chronic drug exposures compared with the MCRs, especially when women sought care at facilities other than the antenatal care unit where they first attended, or when exposures occurred before the initial antenatal visit. The exception was antibiotics dispensed from ward stock to treat sexually transmitted and urinary tract infections.