Background We systematically reviewed the evidence on how primary healthcare workers obtain information during consultations to support decision-making for prescribing in low and lower middle-income countries.
Methods We searched electronic databases, consulted the Healthcare Information For All network, hand searched reference lists, ran citation searches of included studies and emailed authors of identified papers. Two reviewers extracted data and appraised quality with relevant tools.
Results Of 60 497 records found, 23 studies met our inclusion criteria. Fourteen studies were observational and nine were interventional. Frequently mentioned sources of information were books, leaflets, guidelines, aids and the internet. These sources were sometimes out of date and health workers reported being confused which to use. Internet access varied and even when it was available, use was limited by technical issues. Of the five electronic tools that were assessed, four had positive outcomes. Tools assisted prescribers with medicine selection and dosage calculations, which increased prescribing accuracy. The quality of reporting varied but was overall low.
Discussion Studies indicated a lack of up-to-date and relevant medicine information in low and lower middle-income settings. Internet-based sources appeared to be useful when it is possible to download content for offline use and to update when there is internet access. Electronic tools showed promise, but their accuracy needs to be validated and they should focus on giving actionable advice to guide prescribers.