New Information System Increasing Access to Health Data in Rwanda

 {Photo credit: Philbert Rugumire/MSH}Data managers in training at Rubavu District Western Province.Photo credit: Philbert Rugumire/MSH

Rwanda, like many developing countries, has faced major challenges regarding access to accurate health information, such as attendance rates at clinics or statistics on treatments provided. Previously multiple procedures were in place, at times collecting duplicative data, which overwhelmed health workers in charge of collecting the information. The national health management information systems required installing software in each of the computers using the system. There was no way to access data from other computers.

To increase access to quality health information, which is necessary for planning and budgeting for health services, the Rwanda Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the USAID-funded Integrated Health Systems Strengthening Project (IHSSP), led by Management Sciences for Health, launched the Rwanda Health Management Information System (R-HMIS) in February 2012.

R-HMIS, based on the open source District Health Information System (DHIS-2) web application, consolidates data from different sources (such as community health workers, clinics, or hospitals) into one platform, which facilitates access to information when needed. DHIS-2 is used worldwide and was chosen due to its flexibility, which allows system managers to make modifications according to the country’s needs without additional programming. The technology is free to use and supported by a strong community of users and developers worldwide. Another advantage of the new R-HMIS is that it is web-based, so anyone with user rights and a password can easily access the system from any computer in the world.

The R-HMIS has been operational countrywide since February 2012 and collects data from over 700 public health facilities. 

Recently staff from nearly 70 private clinics and dispensaries in the Kigali urban districts was trained on how to use the software and has started to report on their activities. Additional modules are being added to the system and a national data warehouse has been created using the same software. This will provide a one-stop-shop for monitoring the overall performance of the Rwanda health sector. For Ms. Malka Karangwa, data manager for the Maternal and Child Health department, a major advantage of this system is its accessibility.

R-HMIS improved reporting timeliness, completeness, and accuracy. In the past, it could take months to receive reports from remote health areas. Now, reports from every health facility can be viewed immediately. Validation rules help to avoid erroneous data, which has considerably increased data quality.