Nineteen Countries Save $149 Million with Open Source Health Workforce Information Systems

Nineteen countries are now using iHRIS, a free and open source human resources information system, to support over 810,000 health worker records. It would cost more than $149 million in licensing fees alone for these countries to support a similar number of records with a proprietary system purchased from for-profit companies.

Botswana, Chad, DR Congo, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda are using iHRIS to track, manage, and plan for their health workforces. They have moved beyond inefficient paper-based filing systems in favor of robust data and electronic records, which allow users to easily find, share, organize, and manage their information.

Map of countries using iHRIS

A powerful set of tools
The iHRIS suite of health workforce information software and tools includes:

  • iHRIS Plan, a workforce planning and modeling tool
  • iHRIS Retain, a tool developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization to cost health workforce retention strategies
  • iHRIS Train, for managing data on the education of health professionals.

IntraHealth International, through the USAID-funded Capacity Project, launched the first version of iHRIS in 2007. CapacityPlus continues to develop the core iHRIS software, release updates, and partner with countries to roll out the software and train people to use and maintain it.

Using data for advocacy to hire more health workers
With support in data management and analysis from CapacityPlus and other IntraHealth-led projects, several countries are finding additional savings.

The Uganda Ministry of Health used data from its customized iHRIS in 104 of 112 districts to identify vacancies and needed health workers, gained further information from a retention and costing study, and successfully advocated to Parliament for a $20 million recruitment fund, filling 8,000 health worker vacancies and doubling doctors’ salaries.

And in Tanzania, the Zanzibar Ministry of Health used data from iHRIS in conjunction with the Workload Indicators of Staffing Need tool to advocate with the president to increase its health workforce by 897 over the last three years—a nearly 3000% increase over the 30 new health workers originally budgeted.

Learning from each other
Since iHRIS is open source, developers can easily customize the software to meet their needs. In August 2013 the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania held the first of what will be an annual iHRIS Academy, bringing together iHRIS users and developers from seven African countries to collaborate to solve data-related challenges.

To foster sustainability, CapacityPlus created a global iHRIS community intended to become self-sufficient in supporting iHRIS users. The iHRIS community is effectively growing on its own, reaching 150 members who work across time zones to resolve issues raised on the community e-mail list. Because this open source community provides ongoing updates and support, countries that use iHRIS are collectively saving an additional $32 million every year—that’s how much it would cost them to purchase the same type of updates and support from a for-profit source.

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Graphic by Carol Bales and Andy White