Objective: To evaluate the effects, costs, and cost-effectiveness of different degrees of antiretroviral therapy task shifting from physician to other health professionals in Ethiopia.
Design: Two-year retrospective cohort analysis on antiretroviral therapy patients coupled with cost analysis.
Interventions: Facilities with minimal or moderate task shifting compared with facilities with maximal task shifting. Maximal task shifting is defined as nonphysician clinicians handling both severe drug reactions and antiretroviral drug regimen changes. Secondary analysis compares health centers to hospitals.
Main outcome measures: The primary effectiveness measure is the probability of a patient remaining actively on antiretroviral therapy for 2 years; the cost measure is the cost per patient per year.
Results: All facilities had some task shifting. About 89% of patients were actively on treatment 2 years after antiretroviral treatment (ART) initiation, with no statistically significant differences between facilities with maximal and minimal or moderate task shifting. It cost about $206 per patient per year for ART, with no statistically significant difference between the comparison groups. The cost-effectiveness of maximal task shifting is similar to minimal or moderate task shifting, with the same results obtained using regression to control for facility characteristics.
Conclusions: Shifting the handling of both severe drug reactions and antiretroviral drug regimen changes from physicians to other clinical officers is not associated with a significant change in the 2-year treatment success rate or the costs of ART care. As an observational study, these results are tentative, and more research is needed in determining the optimal patterns of task shifting.