The Rwandan Health Management Information System: Improving Collection and Management of Health Service Data to Support Informed Decision Making

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The Rwandan Ministry of Health partnered with the Integrated Health Systems Strengthening Project (IHSSP) to strengthen and coordinate its health information system. In 2009, when IHSSP was launched, the ministry had multiple systems to gather data from the country’s health services, but the systems used to aggregate and analyze the information were weak and were not interoperable. For example, the software used to house most of the data gathered from health facilities was not web-based. To aggregate data, each of the country’s 450 health centers entered their information in local databases and sent a flash drive to one of the 40 district hospitals each month. The hospitals imported the health center data and used the same system to send district data to the central level.

Other systems existed to gather data on the country’s 45,000 community health workers, HIV services, human resources, and other special programs—these data streams were separate and though the systems were web-based, none of the databases could interact. The Rwandan health system was collecting immense amounts of data, and spending considerable time and money doing so, but it was unable to effectively use that information for strategic planning or immediate action.

Now, with a clear, efficient system to gather, view, and analyze health data at every level, the Rwandan health system has the information it needs to adapt and quickly react to changes or stressors in its environment. It also has a more complete set of data to use for strategic planning and policy development. Relying on these data, IHSSP assisted the government in the development of strategic plans and policies that will guide the Rwandan health system for years to come. IHSSP assisted the ministry in the development of the Third Health Sector Strategic Plan (July 2012–June 2018) and the situational analysis that informed the plan, which defines the strategies the government is using to improve health services. Likewise, IHSSP spearheaded the development of the Health Care Financing Strategic Plan and the Human Resources for Health Sustainability Plan, both of which were validated in 2014.