As the world continues to expand into the digital age, health systems must utilize robust Information Systems to allow health information to be shared with necessary stakeholders. Whether its being able to inform the necessary officials about an infectious disease outbreak or helping a country track and develop its healthcare workforce, The Task Force works with partners, governments and health sectors to address public health information challenges as an integral piece of building stronger health systems.
Health systems at all levels utilize information systems to manage patient records, gather and analyze health data, and make healthcare facilities more effective in improving the health of a population. However, across health systems, these information systems can have a plethora of issues. They often need to evolve or adapt to keep up with scientific progress and changing environments of the population and this can be as simple as moving from a paper-based system to a digital system while still connecting with other information systems. Or a necessary information system may need to be developed from scratch. Poor or non-existent information systems can lead to miscommunication and duplicative work, unprovided health services, severe declines in a population’s health, and deadly disease outbreaks.
At The Task Force, we seek to help populations address public health challenges by providing them with the information and knowledge necessary to help make informed decisions to improve the health of all people. We utilize the expertise of “informaticians” and health professionals to advise entities on complex data issues.
Born out of the All Kids Count project that helped develop immunization registries which are some of the first widely implemented public health information systems ever, our Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) assists public health organizations in defining and leveraging the power of information systems to meet public health needs. PHII uses a strategic approach to help its partners and clients use their information effectively and advance their population health goals. Throughout their various projects, PHII uses applied information science to design blueprints for complex data systems in order to keep information secure, usable and responsive to the user’s needs. Domestically, they have helped health departments set up immunization registries, and through the Digital Bridge initiative, they have piloted the project to connect infectious disease reporting systems so that healthcare providers and public health officials can receive real time information at the beginning of a disease outbreak. Information systems are only as effective as the information put in and the users using them. This is why PHII also set up the Informatics Academy which provides workforce development for utilizing information systems.
Strengthening Health Workforce Development
Through the Informatics Academy offers a range of courses that build informatics capacity across foundational areas in U.S. public health departments and global public health practice. It relies on a network of seasoned subject matter experts to build new curriculum. PHII also works with public health organizations and departments to improve workforce allocation, identify gaps, and fill them.
In a similar vein, our African Health Workforce Project has developed a human resource information system piloted in Kenya which helps countries have a real-time snap shot of their health workforce, where they are deployed, if they are up-to-date on their certifications, and it allows health workers to pay dues through their phones rather than having to travel long distances to make these payments. Previously Kenya’s ministry of health tracked it’s health workers through a paper-based system which was a headache to utilize, meaning that it didn’t provide feasible and accurate information. They weren’t able to identify how many health workers they had or where they were all located. With this new database in-place, the country can located health workers at the touch of a button, revenue has increased, and they’re able to identify geographically where they are lacking health skills, making their health system exponentially more efficient and effective. The African Health Workforce Project aims to scale up this project and implement similar information systems in other developing countries that suffer from the same challenge as Kenya. Additionally, the project wants to set up the information systems so that cross-regional collaboration can occur and health workers from one country can be deployed to another in case of an emergency or low-workforce situation.
Responding to the scale and impact of the coronavirus pandemic is a
This article is a sub-article to “Could We Have Been More Prepared
Improve Information Systems for Better Access to Health
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Header photo caption: A doctor in Michigan inputs information about a recent diagnosis of an infectious disease to a database developed by PHII that connects healthcare and the public health system.