eIDSR

Going digital improves Disease Surveillance in Sierra Leone

By Sahr Ngaujah and Nelson Clemens

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According to WHO, Sierra Leone is the first country in the Africa region to fully transform its national disease surveillance system from a paper-based system to a  web-based electronic platform. This is due to the introduction of the electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response solution.

Sierra Leone was one of the hardest-hit countries during the 2014 EVD outbreak in West Africa. The country’s poor disease surveillance infrastructure highlighted the need for a robust disease surveillance mechanism. Introducing an electronic method for disease surveillance reporting became one identified remedy for improving disease surveillance in a country that was still trying to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of digital technology. 

Paper-based health data recording and reporting from across Sierra Leone’s 1300 health facilities became increasingly inadequate and inaccurate and was also characterized by late reporting, incomplete district-level reports, multiple data entry errors, and difficulty storing and retrieving data.

With an expertise in health informatics, eHealth Africa (eHA) designed the electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (eIDSR) solution and has been implementing the solution in collaboration with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, Focus 1000, and GIZ since 2016, with  the objective to enhance disease prevention and control through the digital capture and submission of data on epidemiologically-important diseases. The eIDSR project was funded by the CDC. 

eHA customized an open source health information tool from DHIS2 for the purpose-built digital data collection and reporting. The eIDSR tool is integrated into the national health system through its compatibility with the health information systemDHIS2, which is used in over 45 countries, especially those with vulnerable health systems like Sierra Leone. eHA developed the web form and custom mobile application, piloted both, and created a Short Message Service (SMS) submission solution for health workers to submit their weekly surveillance reports in locations where internet access is weak.

Nwanyibuife Obiako, Senior Programs Manager, eHA Sierra Leone, making a statement during the eIDSR rollout closing ceremony

Nwanyibuife Obiako, Senior Programs Manager, eHA Sierra Leone, making a statement during the eIDSR rollout closing ceremony

As of June 2019, 2758 health care workers at the health facility and district level were trained by eHA on the use of eIDSR across Sierra Leone. These health care workers now monitor 26 disease categories digitally. Digitizing health-related data has yielded positive outcomes in Sierra Leone. eHA has supported the rollout of eIDSR to all 14 administrative districts in Sierra Leone and a ceremony was held on June 6th in Tonkolili district, with participants from the MoHS and other implementing partners, to celebrate the milestone achieved.

Thanks to eIDSR, we have seen an improvement of multiple surveillance indicators, such as reporting completeness and timeliness. It’s evident that a critical part of this success is partnership and collaboration.
— Nwanyibuife Obiako, Senior Programs Manager, eHA Sierra Leone
Nelson Clemens, eHA’s eIDSR Project Coordinator presenting during the eIDSR rollout closing event

Nelson Clemens, eHA’s eIDSR Project Coordinator presenting during the eIDSR rollout closing event

The eIDSR system has also enhanced:

  •  Reduced data entry errors

  •  Reporting completeness, timeliness, and efficiency

Reducing data entry error

Optimal data management and quality are crucial to the delivery of high-quality healthcare services. Accurate data is essential to informed decision making and appropriate public health action. In the past, when health care workers submitted their reports, there was no opportunity for their superiors to perform data quality assurance. This sometimes resulted in erroneous data being sent to the national level, reducing the quality of data used for disease surveillance in Sierra Leone. With eIDSR, digital data is now managed in an efficient manner at District and National levels and made available to all relevant parties in the quickest way possible.

The electronic system has reduced the number of data entry errors in half, and is capturing and verifying data 60% faster than the paper-based IDSR system.
— CDC

Reporting completeness, timeliness, and efficiency 

The eIDSR tool was created to improve the speed of the flow of information within health systems. Through the electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance Response (eIDSR) solution, disease prevention, and control is enhanced through timely electronic capture and submission of data on epidemiologically-important diseases as data can now be submitted, reviewed and acted upon near real-time.

...My colleague Surveillance Officers would agree with me that eIDSR has relieved our stress. eIDSR roll-out commenced in the Kambia district in November 2018. A week following the roll-out, we achieved 98% of timeliness of reporting and has not gone below 90% since.
— Usman Barrie, District Surveillance Officer, MoHS, Kambia district.

Disease surveillance plays an important role in disease prevention, control and elimination. 

eHA continues to work with its partners to ensure eIDSR is sustainable in Sierra Leone.

How eHealth Africa supports Universal Health Coverage across Africa

By Emerald Awa- Agwu

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April 7 is World Health Day and this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

WHO: Universal Health Coverage - What does it mean?

Good health is crucial for developing economies and reducing poverty. Governments and decision-makers need to strengthen health systems so that people can get the healthcare and services that they need to maintain and improve their health, and stay productive.  However, improving access to health services is incomplete if people plunge further into poverty because of the cost of health care. WHO estimates that over 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household budget on health care which is indicative of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE).  CHE can mean that households have to cut down on or forfeit necessities such as food and clothing, education for their children or even sell household goods.

One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 3—Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages— is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. Therefore, achieving UHC has become a major goal for health system reforms in many countries, especially in Africa.

Through our projects and solutions, eHealth Africa supports countries across Africa to strengthen the six pillars of universal health coverage.

1. Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage

WHO recommends that no less than 15% of national budgets should be allocated to health. We believe that accurate and up to date data, can ensure that available health funds are better allocated. In Nigeria,  we worked with several partners to map and collect geospatial data through the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program. Data relating to over 22 points of interest categories including health facilities, was collected across 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria. This data helps decision-makers to distribute resources and plan interventions that target the people who need it most.

2. Essential Medicines and Health products

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Countries decide what medicines and health commodities are essential based on the illnesses suffered by the majority or significant sections of their population. They must also ensure that quality, safe and effective medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical devices are readily available and affordable.

When essential medicines and health products are procured, it is important to maintain proper records and to ensure that health facilities do not run out of stock. eHealth Africa created Logistics Management Information System (LoMIS), a suite of mobile and web applications, LoMIS Stock and LoMIS Deliver that address challenges in the supply of essential medicines and health products such as vaccines and drugs. In Kano State, health workers at the facility level use the LoMIS Stock mobile application to send weekly reports on the vaccine stock levels, essential drug stock levels and the status of cold chain equipment. Supervisors can view the reports in near real-time through the LoMIS Stock Dashboard and plan deliveries of medicines and health products to prevent stockouts of vaccines and essential drugs, using LoMIS Deliver. LoMIS Deliver reduces errors by automating the process of ledger entry to capture the number of vaccines on-hand at the facility and the quantity delivered.

3. Health systems governance

Health system governance according to the WHO is governance undertaken with the aim of protecting and promoting the health of the people. It involves ensuring that a strategic policy framework exists and providing oversight to ensure its implementation. Relevant policies, regulations, and laws must be put in place to ensure accountability across the health system as a whole (public and private health sector actors alike).  Effective health systems governance can only be achieved with the collaboration of stakeholders and partners who will support the government by providing reliable information to inform policy formulation and amendments. Over the years, we have worked with several partners to provide this support.

4. Health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

The attainment of UHC is dependent on the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of health workers1. They must not only be equitably distributed and accessible by the population, but they must also possess the required knowledge and skills to deliver quality health care that marries contextual appropriateness with best practices.

Recognizing this, eHA supports the Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board (KSPHCMB) to improve health service delivery by providing health workers in Kano State with access to texts, audio courses, and training modules through an eLearning solution. Through the eLearning web and mobile-enabled platform, health workers can gain useful skills and knowledge on a wide range of topics. Read about the pilot of the eLearning solution here.

In Sierra Leone, we work with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to implement the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP). Through FETP, public health workers at the district and national level gain knowledge about important epidemiological principles and are equipped with skills in case/ outbreak investigations, data analysis, and surveillance. This positions Sierra Leone to meet the Global Health Security Agenda target of having 1 epidemiologist per 200,000 population. In addition, we support Sierra Leone’s MoHS to build additional capacity in frontline Community Health Officers (CHOs), who are based at the Chiefdom level through the management and leadership training program. CHOs are often the first point of contact for primary care for the local population and the MLTP program equips them to provide better health services and improve health outcomes at their facilities.

5. Health Statistics and Information Systems

In line with our strategy, we create tools and solutions that help health systems across Africa to curate and exchange data and information for informed decision making and future planning.  The Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (eIDSR) solution has been used in Sierra Leone and Liberia to transform data collection, reporting, analysis, and storage for a more efficient response and surveillance of priority diseases. Its integration with DHIS2, a health information system used in over 45 countries, makes it easy for health system decision makers to visualize data and gain insight into the state of public health. Read more about our other solutions Aether and VaxTrac. In addition, we also support the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) by creation and maintenance of a data portal which serves as a repository for all datasets that are relevant to detecting, responding and preventing disease outbreaks in Nigeria.

6. Service delivery and safety

Staff at the Kano Lab

Staff at the Kano Lab

The Service delivery and safety pillar encompasses a large spectrum of issues including patient safety and risk management, quality systems and control, Infection prevention and control, and innovations in service delivery. With our experience working to respond to polio and ebola virus emergencies across Africa, we support health systems to mount prevention and control programs at the national and facility level. We are also committed to creating new technologies and solutions that can help health providers to develop better models of healthcare. We also construct health facilities ranging from clinics to laboratory and diagnostic facilities that utilize state of the art technology to correctly diagnose diseases such as Sickle Cell Disease, Meningitis, and Malaria.

Our Sokoto Meningitis Lab has been at the forefront of meningitis testing and surveillance in Northern Nigeria, offering reliable and prompt diagnoses to support the prevention of future outbreaks.

eHealth Africa continues to work with governments, communities and health workers so that everyone can obtain the quality health care, in a prompt manner and from health workers and facilities within their communities, thus achieving universal health coverage.