CapacityPlus expanded use of the open source human resources information systems platform, iHRIS, to enable countries to use data to make decisions to more effectively recruit and deploy health workers for increased access to services and to track health worker qualifications and education pipelines; the iHRIS software is now used in 21 countries to manage almost a million health worker records at a cost savings of over $275 million when compared to commercial software.
A strong human resources information system (HRIS) helps health care leaders to quickly answer key policy questions affecting service delivery in areas related to workforce planning, education, deployment, management, and retention, among others. Yet health systems in most low- and middle-income countries have had poor data on their health workforce numbers, skills, and location, and, therefore, limited ability to address health workforce challenges. Between 2005 and 2007, the Capacity Project worked with national stakeholders to develop and release the open source iHRIS software designed to capture and maintain high-quality information for health workforce planning and management. By the end of the Capacity Project, five countries had implemented iHRIS. During CapacityPlus, the power of open source approaches to maximize local ownership, capacity building, innovation, and partnership for HRIS strengthening has accelerated, with country-led adoption and application of iHRIS reaching 21 countries.
Strategies and Approaches
iHRIS has been developed into multiple applications to meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders and support health workers throughout their life cycle:
- iHRIS Manage allows tracking and management of health workers actively engaged in service delivery
- iHRIS Qualify enables health professional councils and associations to register, license, and regulate their respective cadres
- iHRIS Train supports tracking and management of preservice education pipelines and in-service training
- iHRIS Plan informs workforce planning and provides predictive modeling, forecasting changes in the health workforce supply over time
- iHRIS Retain, developed with the World Health Organization (WHO), helps countries plan and cost rural health worker recruitment and retention interventions in alignment with the WHO’s rural retention guidelines.
CapacityPlus emphasized open access to iHRIS through publishing the software, source code, and other resources online at www.ihris.org. These resources include the iHRIS Implementation Toolkit, which represents a strong example of open contributions to a global capacity-building product. Providing guidance and materials to assist in the implementation of all iHRIS software, the toolkit has received contributions of more than 100 resources from iHRIS users in 12 countries, all seeking to support others in the adoption and implementation of the software. CapacityPlus further expanded local capacity to adapt, deploy, and sustain iHRIS through establishing a global iHRIS online community and supporting other south-to-south knowledge-sharing mechanisms. For example, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania now hosts annual regional iHRIS academies for developers from different countries to meet and learn together, and has supported iHRIS implementations in Malawi and Sierra Leone.