Information is one of the essential building blocks of a health system: collecting, aggregating, analyzing, and using routine health information are all key to health system success. With the gradual introduction of various technology solutions for managing health data, there is a renewed enthusiasm for strengthening systems with information technology, including various open source platforms like DHIS2, OpenMRS, and iHRIS.
Technology alone is not the solution to the challenges facing health information systems today though. Successful system strengthening requires addressing issues around the governance of the system (who is responsible), data quality, how users interact with systems, and how to promote meaningful data use, which require capacity development understanding motivation to use information in decision making, and ensuring users at all levels of the system feel a sense of ownership of the data.
People-centered health information systems can help bridge the gap between users and ICT solutions by addressing the nuances and challenges of nurturing an enabling environment to ensure new health information technology is appropriately implemented and scaled. New possibilities continue to emerge around the development of person-focused information systems that are both useful for clinicians and managers providing person-centered health care and feed data into the national M&E system without adding burdensome reporting structures to the responsibilities of often over-worked health staff.
This movement towards people-centered health systems is not unique to information systems: WHO and others are promoting a people-centered approach to health systems more broadly, and the topic is a theme at the upcoming Health Systems Research Symposium in Capetown. Finding innovative and creative approaches to understanding the needs of users and ensuring that systems are built to be effective, interoperable, and user friendly will be essential to continued success in strengthening routine health information systems.
This post is the first in a series about taking a people-centered approach to strengthening routine health information systems, focusing on examples of system strengthening success. Read Part 2