Int Health. 2020 Oct 9:ihaa075. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihaa075. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Cancer outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remain suboptimal, in part due to poor patient retention. Many patients travel long distances to receive care, and transportation costs are often prohibitively expensive. These are well-known and established causes of delayed treatment and care abandonment in Malawi and across SSA.
METHODS: We sent visit reminder texts and offered upfront money to cover transportation costs through a mobile money transfer (MMT) platform to lymphoma patients enrolled in a prospective cohort in Malawi. The primary aim was to test the feasibility of upfront MMTs.
RESULTS: We sent 1034 visit reminder texts to 189 participating patients. Of these texts, 614 (59%) were successfully delivered, with 536 (52%) responses. 320/536 (60%) MMTs were sent to interested patients and 312/320 (98%) came to their appointment on time. Of 189 total patients, 120 (63%) were reached via text and 84 (44%) received MMTs a median of three times (IQR 2-5). Median age of reachable patients was 41 (IQR 30-50), 75 (63%) were male, 62 (52%) were HIV+ and 79 (66%) resided outside of Lilongwe.
CONCLUSION: MMTs were a feasible way to cover upfront transportation costs for patients reachable via text, however many of our patients were unreachable. Future studies exploring barriers to care, particularly among unreachable patients, may help improve the efficacy of MMT initiatives and guide retention strategies throughout SSA.