Uganda Launches National Health Workforce Information System Built on iHRIS

On February 7, the Uganda Ministry of Health (MOH) and USAID/Uganda jointly launched the country’s Human Resources for Health Information System (HRHIS), which provides up-to-date information on the country’s health workforce for evidence-based decision-making. Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi presided over a launch ceremony at the Hotel Africana; Minister of Health Honorable Richard Nduhura delivered a speech and held a press conference.

Building on CapacityPlus’s iHRIS software
Uganda’s HRHIS is built on the iHRIS software, a suite of open source tools for managing and planning the health workforce developed and supported by CapacityPlus, as well as other USAID-funded projects led by IntraHealth International. Because the software is open source, the IntraHealth-led Uganda Capacity Program tailored it to meet Uganda’s specific needs.

A customized version of iHRIS Qualify, a registration and licensure tracking database, is used by the country’s four professional health councils. A customized version of iHRIS Manage, a human resources management system, is installed at the central MOH, 69 district health offices, 15 hospitals, the Uganda Virus Research Institute, and Nakasero Blood Bank.

The Uganda Capacity Program provides technical assistance for the customization and installation of the HRHIS and, in collaboration with other partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Baylor College of Medicine, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, is helping the MOH roll it out to all 112 districts. CapacityPlus assists the Uganda Capacity Program to build stakeholder leadership and country ownership, improve data quality, and increase the use of HRHIS data.

From paper files to data for decision-making
Previously, Uganda’s health leaders relied on a complex system of paper files that made it impossible to compile and analyze information on the country’s available health workforce. Indeed, even finding one health worker’s record was difficult.

Now, the councils maintain electronic records on the country’s 46,280 qualified health workers, and can track the number of health workers by cadre, verify licenses and practice requirements, and provide information to ensure new hires are properly qualified. Council data are also used to influence funding for preservice education and to advocate for the recruitment of more health workers.

Likewise, health workforce managers produce a number of reports, including staff lists that are compared with approved staffing norms to identify vacancies or overstaffing, and with the country’s payroll system to recognize and eliminate “ghost workers”—those who are no longer working but remain on the payroll. These managers can also generate detailed profiles of an individual health worker’s employment history and run reports to project staff losses due to retirement, for example.

The MOH aggregates information from the individual databases and uses it to inform the country’s health workforce strategic plan and for annual and biannual health workforce reports. The MOH also shares health workforce data with other national health information systems, such as those residing at the Ministry of Public Service and Ministry of Education and Sports.

Celebrating better access to health services
In a press release about the event, the MOH and USAID/Uganda stated they are confident the HRHIS will enable equitable distribution of health workers and effective planning, so that all Ugandans can enjoy better access to quality health care services.

Over 200 participants attended the launch ceremony, including representatives from Uganda’s ministries, the World Health Organization, World Bank, and USAID/Uganda. Dr. Vincent Oketcho, IntraHealth’s chief of party for the Uganda Capacity Program, led the program, providing a brief history of the HRHIS in Uganda and the objectives of the launch. Other members and partners of the Uganda Capacity Program team made essential contributions including setting up more than a dozen live demos and presenting the wealth of data available from the system.

CapacityPlus’s Dykki Settle, architect of the iHRIS software, said, “Uganda was the original pioneer of these systems, working with IntraHealth to design, develop, and deploy country-appropriate health workforce information systems, but always with a mind to developing something any country could use. Today, more than a dozen countries have adopted the software, following and benefitting from Uganda’s innovation and leadership.”

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Photo by Carol Bales. (MOH files in 2009)