ICT for Health > Empowering Health Workers to Save Lives
Uganda Health Information Network
The Uganda Health Information Network (UHIN) was conceived in 2003 to provide
two-way access to information utilizing existing cellular telephone network and
low-cost, simple to use, and energy efficient handheld computers (also known as
Personal Digital Assistant or PDA) for supporting health information
dissemination, data collection and reporting, and email exchange. Data transfer
from/to PDAs is facilitated using wireless access points (called African Access
Points or AAP, developed by SATELLIFE) and a server located in Kampala.
Health workers use the PDAs to collect public health data at the community level. They then upload that data and e-mails they need to send to AAP via infrared,
Bluetooth or wi-fi at a rural health facility. The AAP sends the data and
messages over the cellular network to the server in the capital, which routes
them to the correct recipients and sends back messages, data, and health
information clinicians need. For Uganda, which has one of the highest burdens
of disease in the world but also some of the best cellular telephone coverage
in Africa, the marriage of handheld technology and cellular telephony
represents a watershed moment in the battle against information poverty.
Currently there are about 600 health workers in Rakai, Mbale, Manafwa, Lyantonde, and Bududa districts using UHIN for facilitating data and information exchange.
HMIS Data Collection and Reporting: District Health Offices receive data from various levels of health centers using the UHIN that include monthly Health Management Information System (HMIS) reports, disease surveillance data, reports related
to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, data for monitoring drug usage and stocks,
which is used for ordering medicines. Additional tools for electronic data
collection of non-routine sources of information especially in relation to
community-based health care, nutrition and environmental sanitation programs
have been developed and rural health facilities are using the network for data
capture and reporting to district health offices and the ministry of health.
Rural hospitals also use the PDAs for capturing data on daily register forms such as
PMTCT, inpatient, lab, HIV Counseling, ART administration, ART and pre-ART unit
Building Health Workers' Skill Base: Continuing Medical Education (CME) targeted to doctors, senior nurses, and senior clinical officers ("tier-1"), and to community health workers ("tier-2") is regularly broadcast though the UHIN. Both tiers of health workers receive content three times a week via PDA pertaining to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of major health problems such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. In addition health workers receive daily news from mainstream media on a daily basis through the network.
Cost-effectiveness study of UHIN conducted by independent consultants in 2004/5 showed that the network delivered a 24 per cent savings per unit of spending over the traditional manual data collection and transmission approaches.
UHIN was a joint project of SATELLIFE, Uganda Chartered HealthNet (UCH), the Faculty of Medicine of Makerere University, the International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC), and District Health Services of five districts serving 1 million people in Uganda.
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This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
International Development Research Centre