Efforts are on to address inadequate information generation and reporting systems in the health sector.

This was revealed today by Acting Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Diane Campbell, as she addressed the opening of a two-day workshop on the ???The Use of Information for Decision Making???, at the Pan-American Health Organisation, Dayrell???s Road.

???Currently, there is a weak information base, and much reporting is still done manually. The information culture in the Ministry is somewhat poor, and needs to be strengthened significantly,??? Ms. Campbell observed.

Stating that Barbados??? Strategic Plan for Health 2002-2012 spoke to the issue of designing information systems for evidenced-based decision making, information sharing and research, the Acting PS acknowledged that the Health Ministry had already implemented a software application programme in all polyclinics ???to collect data on patient demographics, patient encounters and immunisation???.

Ms. Campbell noted that the software was far more powerful and capable of creating a plethora of ad hoc reports and graphs, which would enhance the work of polyclinic managers, namely Medical Officers of Health and Senior Sisters.?? According to her, the reports are also expected to add value by allowing users to inspect various parameters in their own catchments and compare these with others, and should vastly aid in the planning and preparation of budgets and other items.

She also underscored the importance of developing a culture of information use, noting that for front-line health workers to use health information systems (HIS) as a management tool for programme monitoring at the local level, then health managers and policy makers ???must develop a culture of information, whereby [it] is actively used for resource allocation, planning and policy development at higher levels.

The implementation of a health information system should support local (institutional) development and promote primary health care awareness by establishing a culture of analysis and use of information in order to identify and follow progress towards targets within a primary health care setting,??? said the Acting Permanent Secretary.

Ms. Campbell argued, however, that this approach had had limited application within the Ministry and pointed out that inappropriate training and a weak information culture, largely paper-based, had resulted in much unused data, little research and analysis, decision making that was lacking in empirical data and the non-existence of integration and cross tabulation of data.

While noting that programme directors, health managers, researchers and academics had called for training as ???a cornerstone in the successful implementation of health information systems???, she cautioned that this, ???in itself does not ensure successful implementation and needs to be linked to appropriate organisational development.???

She concluded: ???The main barriers to application of skills acquired are poor organisational infrastructure, lack of management support and a poorly established culture of information use.???

The training at PAHO is the first of many programmes which will be organised over the next two years, and targets officers in information gathering and reporting.

The overall goal of the programme is to strengthen the information culture in the Ministry of Health to use data for evidence-based decision making.



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