Healthcare workers both in public and private health facilities do not have lack of knowledge and skills to collect, manage and interpret data and information leading to compromised service delivery.
Kuunika Data for Action conducted between 2017 and 2018 with financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to identify current knowledge and skill gaps in the health sector in order to develop targeted and critically relevant training packages.
The study established that while accurate and reliable health data is crucial for making critical decisions in the health system, Malawi health information system (HIS) infrastructure faces serious challenges in collecting, managing, interpreting and using health data thereby compromising effective and efficient decision-making in the health system.
“Challenges have been attributed to lack of knowledge and skills, presence of multiple systems with no standards for integration and interoperability, lack of clear information flow amongst levels of the health system, inconsistent dissemination/use of health information and evolving roles for health workers (Malawi National eHealth Strategy, 2015). Current national strategies and policy documents highlight a need to resolve these gaps with focused interventions to improve the health information system,” reads part of the report.
The report states that over 40 percent of facilities assessed did not have staff members who formally provided information technology (IT) systems support.
And at facilities that did provide these IT systems, the staff members did not have any training and mastery levels in key areas of competency for such a role.
“A functional HIS is a crucial source of accurate and reliable health data that countries such as Malawi rely on when making critical decisions about patient care, policy development, programming, resource planning, and accountability.
“The development of a comprehensive national HIS Strategy and the implementation of electronic information systems, including electronic medical records (EMR) systems and District Health Information Software version 2 (DHIS2), in Malawi over the past eight years points to the growing role of technology in Malawi’s health system,” the report emphasises.
And speaking on Wednesday on the sidelines of a training workshop for health workers in Mponela, Kuunika Data for Action public health specialist, Martha Saidi, said her organisation will be conducting training needs assessment (TNA) packages designed to strengthen data systems and data use at all levels in an effort to lead to improved health outcomes in Malawi.
“Specifically, the TNA is aimed to determine existing HIS-related competencies of health workers, and identify training gaps, current HIS trainings and preferred training methodologies. We want health workers to understand HIS organisation, data flow and their role within the HIS from the site-level to the national level,” Saidi explained.
She said since Malawi is scaling up use of such systems to capture and manage health information at points of care and for reporting, it is imperative that government should prioritise addressing the shortage of staff with the skills to provide basic troubleshooting and user support on electronic systems at the facility-level.
Meanwhile, Kuunika Project is training 180 facility-in-charges, doctors, clinical officers, nurses, health surveillance assistants, data clerks, art clerks, administrative staff, and it support personnel.