Namibia has officially launched the second version of the district health information system – DHIS2. This is in line with the Government’s priorities of implementing an efficient and effective eHealth system to streamline and strengthen data-driven health care.

Speaking at the launch on Friday July 7, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr Bernard Haufiku said his Ministry is moving in the right direction towards a paperless healthcare system that is web-based and more efficient.

Namibia has been using the first iteration of the DHIS since 2005 as a routine health information monitoring system. This initial version was a desktop application using Microsoft access, installed on individual computers.  The application was useful in supporting the capturing, analysis and use of data however, other data quality components such as timeliness in reporting for decision making remained a challenge.

The DHIS2 brings a host of new features and possibilities that enable vastly improved routine health monitoring through a single platform that can capture and aggregate all health data. It also maintains the free and open source philosophy of the previous version.

It offers the ability to collect aggregated data across all primary healthcare programmes, from expanded programmes on immunisation, family planning, HIV and AIDS, etc., to bringing in data from other sectors.

Since DHIS2 is web-based, it allows data to be available in real-time, and provides expanded access and more user-friendly presentation and visualization of data, so decision-makers no longer have to wait to get hold of the data they need, in the format they need it, to inform planning and take action.

The DHIS2 was fully deployed across the country by December 2016, with funding support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), technical assistance and capacity development support from Health Information Systems Program (HISP) Namibia, and additional technical support from the University of California at San Francisco.

A crucial factor in any health information system is ensuring that data is not only timely, but that it is of the highest quality. As Dr Haufiku stated at the launch, “We know that if you put garbage in you will get garbage out, therefore training must emphasise data quality”.

For this reason, not only does the DHIS2 have strong built-in data quality functionalities, HISP Namibia also provides extensive support to the Ministry to strengthen national and regional health information management.

This includes training and mentoring Ministry and health facility staff and partners on the use of the DHIS2 system, data quality and information use, as well as supporting the health information technical working group and the successful implementation of the health information systems strategy.

“We have a good platform and we want to use this platform for further expansion”, said Dr Haufiku, with the Ministry looking at using DHIS2 as a surveillance system for disease outbreaks, to improve efficiency in response rates, and to improve overall quality of health service delivery.

As the routine health information system in use in over 50 countries worldwide, the DHIS2 is certainly contributing to the eHealth revolution. Is this revolution having the impact on health outcomes we are aiming for?

Gwen Wilkins
Knowledge Management and Communications Consultant
Health Information Systems Program (HISP) South Africa