BY MIRZA ABDUL ALEEM BAIG
IBD: The health system in developing countries has changed radically during the last few years from a centralized system to a decentralized mechanism significantly bringing positive changes in the overall health system. However, Pakistan is still taking shallow initiatives in this field with having no mature approach to tackle the decades old core issues in the relevant field.
The implementation of health management information system (HMIS), which emphasizes the use of information at the point of collection, is a pre-requisite to ensuring more accuracy and speedy dissemination of patients and diseases data at all levels.
Experts on modern health system are of view that through decentralization more freedom and responsibilities are given to each point of care meaning that more skills are demanded of primary health care managers.
Unfortunately, the health management and information system in Pakistan is woefully inadequate in providing the needed management support. Most healthcare providers in the country equate information system with filling endless registers with name and address of patients, compiling information on diseases every week or every month and sending out reports without ever receiving any feedback.
In fact, the HMIS for health systems serving the poorest parts of the world are still in their infancy. The challenges are significant, but the need to improve health outcomes is simply too great to ignore the value of better information to health system performance. Health leaders must, therefore, focus on maximizing the value of scarce resources and finding ways to make health systems operate as efficiently as possible.
The facility based health information system is one of the most powerful tools for the planning and management of health services. In view of the existing vast health infrastructure, spread all over the country in terms of health facilities, services, staff, drugs and supplies etc. there has been a need to establish an efficient information system responding to the information needs of various decision making levels of the healthcare delivery system.
The importance of a health management and information system cannot be ignored as health policies and planning in any country depends mostly on the correct and timely information on various health issues.
Presently, the regions, nations, and communities that comprise the developing world face a wide variety of health-related challenges, and health systems that address those challenges are struggling with limited resources and capability. Having reliable data on the performance of different parts of the health system is the only way to devise, execute, and measure health interventions.
The health experts suggest that successful strengthening of health system will require relevant, timely, and accurate information on the performance of the health system itself and the goal of a health information system (HIS) is to provide such information.
In the conventional way of information collection, the data is not helpful for decision making as it is unreliable, incomplete, untimely and rarely pertains to the procedures required to perform. Currently the HMIS is widely seen as management obstacles rather than as tools. The current situation of health information system in Pakistan demands of the decision makers to take effective initiatives and introduce changes for further collaboration among various vertical health programme information systems and integrate them into one system.
The integrated approach will not only save resources but also develop efficiency of the information systems as a whole, the experts said adding it is also required to encourage utilization of information at the facility level by improving efficiency of the system so that the health providers receive up-to-date information.