Conducting verbal autopsy by telephone interview during the pandemic to support mortality surveillance: a feasibility study in Malaysia
Verbal autopsy telephone interview
Objective: Verbal autopsy (VA) through face-to-face interviews with caregivers is a way to determine cause of death without medical certification. In Malaysia, the use of VA has improved mortality statistics. However, during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, face-to-face interviews were delayed, reducing VA data collection and affecting data for mortality surveillance. This study aims to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of conducting VA interviews via telephone calls, and the quality of the data gathered.
Methods: The study was conducted in Malaysia from September to October 2020 using a cross-sectional design. Participants were health-care workers from established VA teams across the country. They conducted VA interviews via telephone and provided feedback through a customized online form. Data collected from the form were used to assess the feasibility, acceptability and quality of the telephone interviews using IBM SPSS version 23.
Results: Responses were received from 113 participants. There were 74 (65.5%) successful interviews, representing 91% of the 81 cases who were able to be contacted. More than two thirds of health-care workers provided positive feedback on the telephone interview method for themselves and the interviewees. Only 10.8% of causes of death were unusable.
Discussion: This study provides preliminary evidence that VA via telephone interview is feasible, acceptable and can be used as an alternative to face-to-face interviews without affecting data quality. During times when face-to-face interviews are not advisable, VA telephone interviews can be used for data collection for mortality surveillance.