Mortality statistics derived from cause of death data are an important source of information for population health monitoring, priority setting and planning. In Perú, almost all death certificates are issued by doctors because it is a legal requirement. However, the quality of cause of death data is poor. In August 2016, the Ministry of Health of Perú decided to make two specific interventions to improve cause of death data: to introduce an online death certification system and to train doctors in standard death certification practices.
The study comprised a random sample of 300 pre-intervention death certificates, 900 death certificates that were part of the online intervention, and 900 death certificates that were part of both the online and training interventions. All the deaths had occurred between January and September 2017. We used the Assessing the quality of death certification tool from the University of Melbourne for the assessment. We examined the frequency of common errors in death certificates, the frequency of any error and the average error score for each category of: age group, sex, doctor’s seniority, doctor’s speciality, level of health facility and broad cause of death.
The average error score declined by 38% due to the online intervention and by a further 26% due to the training intervention. Improved certification practices remained after controlling for potentially confounding factors. Main improvements were reductions in the absence of a time interval (66% of certificates), incorrect sequence of causes (22%), and ill-defined conditions (13%).
This study demonstrates how the two interventions introduced by the Ministry of Health in Perú improved the correctness of death certificates. The study also provides evidence on necessary changes to the training program to address the poor certification practices that have remained after implementation of the online system.