Published on Development Impact

Facility-based data collection: a data methods bleg

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Today, I come to our readers with a request. I have a ton of experience with household and individual survey data collection. Ditto with biomarkers, assessments/tests at home, etc. However, I have less experience with facility-based data collection, especially when it is high frequency. For example, we do have a lot of data from the childcare centers in our study in Malawi, but we had to visit each facility once at each round of data collection and spend a day to collect all the facility-level data, including classroom observations, etc. What would you do if you needed high frequency data (daily, weekly, or monthly) that is a bit richer that what the facility collects themselves for their own administrative purposes that would not break the bank?

We'd like to collect data on consultations and services provided to clients at health facilities in a setting where medical records are not computerized. We could scan all facility registers on a monthly or quarterly basis, but (a) the quality of these data could vary, and (b) the data would be the bare bones of what we need for the study. Hence, we see this as our backup method of collecting administrative data...

The current idea we're entertaining is to recruit "nurse researchers" at each facility for our study, give them a tablet with a record-keeping software that would collect the data we'd like to have, train them for a day on using the tablet, and compensate the facility monthly for their time and uploading the data to a server, while providing support for problems, issues, etc. The advantage for the facility is that the data from the server can generate administrative records for them automatically, which could be shared with them quickly, reducing the need for pen and paper registries in the future. For us, daily records of client interactions would provide a huge amount of statistical power when paired with the exact dates of intervention rollout and also make the evaluation much more nimble. Of course, the downside is that any non-compliance is very costly to internal validity...

Do people have experience with recruiting facility staff for collecting data for a study rather than regularly sending (expensive) enumeration teams to collect the data? What are some things we can institute that would help? What are the pitfalls we're not seeing? The comments section is yours to contribute...Thanks in advance!


Berk Özler

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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