Health information systems refer to any system that captures, stores, manages or transmits information related to the health of individuals or the activities of organisations that work within the health sector. This definition incorporates things such as district level routine information systems, disease surveillance systems, and also includes laboratory information systems, hospital patient administration systems (PAS) and human resource management information systems (HRMIS). Overall, a well-functioning HIS is an integrated effort to collect, process, report and use health information and knowledge to influence policy and decision-making, programme action, individual and public health outcomes, and research. Sound decision-making at all levels of a health system requires reliable health statistics that are disaggregated by sex, age and socioeconomic characteristics. At a policy level, decisions informed by evidence contribute to more efficient resource allocation and, at the delivery level, information about the quality and effectiveness of services can contribute to better outcomes.
Information systems, particularly at lower levels of the health system (closer to the collection source), need to be simple and sustainable and not overburden health delivery staff or be too costly to run. Staff need feedback on how the routine data they collect can be used and also need to understand the importance of good quality data for improving health. Capacity building is required to ensure policymakers at all levels have the ability to use and interpret health data, whether it originates from routine systems, health surveys or special operational research. It is also important that health system staff understand the significance of local data for local program management, and that their needs for strengthened capacity for critical health statistical analysis are met. Local use of data collected at lower levels of the health system is a key step for improving overall data quality. Furthermore, aggregate patient information collected at various points of service delivery and made interoperable with routine HIS improves the quality and use of health information.
The Health Metrics Network (HMN), in their Framework and Standards for Country Health Information Systems, has defined a Health Information System as consisting of six components:
Health Information Systems Resources
These include the legislative, regulatory and planning frameworks required for a fully functioning health information system, and the resources that are required for such a system to be functional. Such resources involve personnel, financing, logistics support, information and communications technology (ICT), and coordinating mechanisms within and between the six components
A core set of indicators and related targets is the basis for a health information system plan and strategy. Indicators need to encompass determinants of health; health system inputs, outputs and outcomes; and health status
These can be divided into two main categories; (1) population-based approaches (censuses, civil registration and population surveys) and (2) institution-based data (individual records, service records and resource records). A number of data-collection approaches and sources do not fit into either of the above main categories but can provide important information that may not be available elsewhere. These include occasional health surveys, research, and information produced by community based organisations
This covers all aspects of data handling from collection, storage, quality-assurance and flow, to processing, compilation and analysis
Data must be transformed into information that will become the basis for evidence and knowledge to shape health action
Dissemination and Use
The value of health information is enhanced by making it readily accessible to decision-makers and by providing incentives for, or otherwise facilitating, information use.
Health Metrics Network (HMN)
Established in 2005, the Health Metrics Network (HMN) is the first global partnership dedicated to strengthening national health information systems. HMN operates as a network of global, regional and country partners. As a country-owned and partner-driven platform, it assesses health information systems and sustainably improves them, through the use of the HMN Framework.
HMN is carrying out work in two technical work streams, called Priority Strategic Initiatives:
- MOVE-IT for the MDGs: Monitoring Of Vital Events, including through innovative approaches, such as information and communication technology, consists of helping countries strengthen their health information systems to help track progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. It is a renewed drive to record every birth, death, and cause of death, reversing the global and national neglect of this issue
- Progress Tracking Tool/State of the World’s Information Systems for Health: A Progress Tracking Tool is under development to help countries measure health information system improvements. The State of the World Information Systems for Health (SWISH) report will document the current state of health information systems in countries and identify priority areas for strengthening.
HMN provides technical and financial support to countries to strengthen their health information systems. While HMN’s role is not to be a primary source of funding, HMN financial support enables countries and partners to convene stakeholders, develop plans, mobilize resources, and ensure assessment and monitoring of progress.
Improving data quality: A guide for developing countries
World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific
“In recent years, data quality has become an important issue, not only because of its importance in promoting high standards of patient care, but also because its impact on government budgets for the maintenance of health services”
The purpose of this booklet is to provide a set of guidelines to enable health care workers, health information managers and administrators at all levels to focus on improving the timeliness, accuracy and reliability of health care data. Although the emphasis might seem to be on hospitals and hospital medical records, these guidelines have been designed to address all areas in health care where data are collected and information generated. The guidelines describe the activities that should be considered when addressing the question of data quality in health care, regardless of the setting. The reader is guided to assess and, where necessary, improve the quality of data generated in the environment within which they function, regardless of size, remoteness or sophistication.
These guidelines are aimed at government policymakers and health care administrators at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of health care, as well as doctors, nurses, other health care providers and health information managers. All of these share responsibility for the documentation, implementation, development, and management of health information services.
To download a copy of the document, click here