PLoS One. 2016 Sep 1;11(9):e0160683. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160683.

Comparing effectiveness of active and passive client follow-up approaches in sustaining the continued use of long acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) in rural Punjab: a multicentre, non-inferiority trial

Hameed W, Azmat SK, Ali M, Ishaque M, Abbas G, Munroe E, Harrison R, Shamsi WH, Mustafa G, Khan OF, Ali S and Ahmed A

Background: The use of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods is very low in Pakistan with high discontinuation rates mainly attributed to method-related side effects. Mixed evidence is available on the effectiveness of different client follow-up approaches used to ensure method continuation. We compared the effectiveness of active and passive follow-up approaches in sustaining the use of LARC and within 'active' follow-up, we further compared a telephone versus home-based approach in rural Punjab, Pakistan.

Methods: This was a 12-month multicentre non-inferiority trial conducted in twenty-two (16 rural- and 6 urban-based) franchised reproductive healthcare facilities in district Chakwal of Punjab province, between November 2013 and December 2014. The study comprised of three groups of LARC clients: a) home-based follow-up, b) telephone-based follow-up, and c) passive or needs-based follow-up. Participants in the first two study groups received counselling on scheduled follow-up from the field workers at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 month post-insertion whereas participants in the third group were asked to contact the health facility if in need of medical assistance relating to LARC method use. Study participants were recruited with equal allocation to each study group, but participants were not randomized. The analyses are based on 1,246 LARC (intra-uterine contraceptive device and implant) users that completed approximately 12-months of follow-up. The non-inferiority margin was kept at five percentage points for the comparison of active and passive follow-up and six percentage points for telephone and home-based approach. The primary outcome was cumulative probability of method continuation at 12-month among LARC users.

Results: Women recruited in home-based, telephone-based, and passive groups were 400, 419 and 427, respectively. The cumulative probability of LARC continuation at 12 month was 87.6% (95% CI 83.8 to 90.6) among women who received home-based follow-up; 89.1% (95% CI 85.7, 91.8) who received telephone-based follow-up; and 83.8% (95% CI 79.8 to 87.1) who were in the passive or needs-based follow-up group. The probability of continuation among women who were actively followed-up by field health educators either through home-based visit or telephone-based follow-up was, 88.3% (95% CI 85.9 to 90.0). An adjusted risk difference of -4.1 (95% CI -7.8 to -0.28; p-value = 0.035) was estimated between active and passive follow-up. Whereas, within the active client follow-up, the telephone-based follow-up was found to be as effective as the home-based follow-up with an adjusted risk difference of 1.8 (95% CI -2.7 to 6.4; p-value = 0.431).

Conclusion: A passive follow-up approach was 5% inferior to an active follow-up approach; whereas telephone-based follow-up was as effective as the home-based visits in sustaining the use of LARC, and was far more resource efficient. Therefore, active follow-up could improve method continuation especially in the critical post-insertion period.

Comment: We already know that follow-up after Long Acting Reversible Contraception is very important to check for adverse events and to remind women to come for a replacement. Indeed we see here that an active approach works better than a passive one, but also that the cost-effective method of telephone follow-up is as effective as a home visit (HMV).