Public Health Strengthening in Guyana

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Developing an Electronic Health Information System in Guyana


HIS brochure

Intern Alam Khan teaching GUM clinic staff how to use the new HIS

For donors:
what the new GHIS can do for you


What is a "Health Information System" (HIS)?

The primary goal of a health information system is the transformation of data into information useful for planning and decision-making concerning programs and policies relating to health and health care.  In other words, an HIS is an information management network, a way to continuously collect and interpret pertinent health data. The difference between "health data" and "health information" is a subtle but important one. Patient charts from all the hospitals in Guyana comprise "health data." When those charts and mined and analyzed, and citable statistics, such as the rate of change of TB transmission, have been extracted, then "health information" has been produced. Thus, the quality of the latter is directly dependent upon the purity of the former.


Why is an HIS important?

HIS offer three important advantages: Cost effectiveness, appropriateness and speed.

1.       A major obstacle to the delivery of comprehensive health care is the cost of the health system, from providers' salaries to the maintenance of facilities and the provision of drugs and other therapies. An HIS helps a nation avoid duplication of services, and helps direct finite resources to where they can be most efficiently applied. This reduces the overall cost of a health care system, and minimizes the amount of wasted resources.

2.       Without current, valid health information, providers are much less likely to be aware of what interventions are most needed in a community. As a result, limited or even counterproductive measures might be implemented in response to a given community's health care needs, or no measures taken at all. An HIS is a powerful tool for quickly and accurately identifying a population's immediate and long term care needs, which helps to guide appropriate interventions.

3.       In many parts of the world, there is a significant span of time between the identification of a health care need and the delivery of interventions and other measures intended to ameliorate the situation. This is often due to poor physical infrastructure as well as an inability to adequately communicate health needs to the central governing body. An HIS provides a mechanism for the ongoing monitoring of community health status, thus allowing for speedier responses to health needs, and minimizing the possibility of potentially severe health crises.


For a nation like Guyana, what does an HIS entail?

Developing an effective HIS entails, first and foremost, establishing disease reporting standards.  Screening, diagnosis, infection and treatment records must be maintained, both locally and centrally, and computers and “lower” technologies must both be used for heightened efficiency and cost-effectiveness.  Training and employing Guyanese citizens is necessary to establish and maintain, in the long-run, the country’s information network, and to develop the capability to quickly transform pure health data into reportable and meaningful health information.  


An adaptable, expandable electronic HIS is being established by the Project to collect, process and communicate disaggregated health data on STI/HIV/AIDS/TB, and to contribute to national health policy and planning.  This also entails training clinicians, managers, health personnel and MOH staff in both basic computer use and database applications.  The Project has made a great deal of progress towards developing and implementing a new electronic HIS:

          The database has been partially developed, and Version 1.0 is currently being tested; it was designed conforming to specifications and feedback received from the testing of earlier prototype versions at clinical and laboratory test sites

          Regular feedback continues to be collected from three clinics and one laboratory, and will be used to design the final Version 1.0 stable release

          In February 2007, the Ministry of Health Information and Communications Technology Oversight Committee made a decision to adopt the HIS as Guyana’s standard clinical information system

          104 individuals have been trained in database applications, and 95 have been given training in basic computer skills; training and mentoring of health professionals, technologists and workers continues

          The GUM clinic, Chest Clinic, Dorothy Bailey Clinic, Central Medical Laboratory, New Amsterdam Family Health Clinic, the New Amsterdam Hospital, and the Wismar Family Health Clinic have all been networked and are inputting patient data into the HIS

          Clinics in Georgetown and Regions 6 and 10 have been networked, and preparations have been made to roll out the system to more sites in Guyana

          The MOH has also been networked, and several of its employees have been trained in database applications

          The HIS has been expanded to include modules for Home and Palliative Care, Drug Inventory, Pregnancies, and Human Resources; it also includes an electronic TB registry designed according to national and WHO specifications as well as a generic report generator that can be modified to suit the needs of any donor organization interested in collecting and analyzing data


Some useful HIS Links:

CSIH's Trans-Caucasus Health Information Project

WHO Bulletin on HIS

RHINO: Routine Health Information Networks



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