Numbers, systems, people: how interactions influence integration. Insights from case studies of HIV and reproductive health services delivery in Kenya

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Abstract

Drawing on rich data from the Integra evaluation of integrated HIV and reproductive-health services, we explored the interaction of systems hardware and software factors to explain why some facilities were able to implement and sustain integrated service delivery while others were not. This article draws on detailed mixed-methods data for four case-study facilities offering reproductive-health and HIV services between 2009 and 2013 in Kenya: (i) time-series client flow, tracking service uptake for 8841 clients; (ii) structured questionnaires with 24 providers; (iii) in-depth interviews with 17 providers; (iv) workload and facility data using a periodic activity review and cost-instruments; and (v) contextual data on external activities related to integration in study sites. Overall, our findings suggested that although structural factors like stock-outs, distribution of staffing and workload, rotation of staff can affect how integrated care is provided, all these factors can be influenced by staff themselves: both frontline and management. Facilities where staff displayed agency of decision making, worked as a team to share workload and had management that supported this, showed better integration delivery and staff were able to overcome some structural deficiencies to enable integrated care. Poor-performing facilities had good structural integration, but staff were unable to utilize this because they were poorly organized, unsupported or teams were dysfunctional. Conscientious objection and moralistic attitudes were also barriers.

Integra has demonstrated that structural integration is not sufficient for integrated service delivery. Rather, our case studies show that in some cases excellent leadership and peer-teamwork enabled facilities to perform well despite resource shortages. The ability to provide support for staff to work flexibly to deliver integrated services and build resilient health systems to meet changing needs is particularly relevant as health systems face challenges of changing burdens of disease, climate change, epidemic outbreaks and more.

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