Its Time To Design Health Information System For General Public

(Dr. Faisal Khan, Saudi Arab)

Health information system is, in general, any set up to provide all types of basic information about the availability of health facilities in a specific area. A well-developed health information system is the foundation of public health. A population-based health information system can guide our federal & provincial governments in planning and regulatory decision-making. Public health decision-making is critically dependent on the timely availability of sound data, and complete health information to meet the needs of an individual patient and their relatives.

In Pakistan about basic health information,
we are facing multiple problems on large scale, not only in rural areas but also in well-developed urban territories. First major problem is lack of information for common public. 2nd one is lack of public access to available health informational data. 3rd one is general public has no information that which kind of medical facilities are available in different labs, diagnostic centers and health providers with in their local areas either public or private. 4th one is lack of information about the availability of basic investigative medical services like X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, Mammogram & different lab tests within any specific area.

The role of health information systems is to generate, analyze and organize such data according to the requirements of under developed areas of the society. Unfortunately, in Pakistan health information systems rarely function systematically. This problem is a semi-product of historical, social and economic issues, they are complex, fragmented and unresponsive to the welfare and basic needs of community. Our federal and provincial health ministries are largely responsible for the problem, having prioritized urgent needs for data over longer-term country capacity-building. The result is painfully apparent in the inability to generate the data needed to monitor progress towards the provision of advanced and well-developed health information system for the general public and also for the decision-making authorities.

Overall in Pakistan health facilities range from small clinics and doctor's personal hospitals to urgent care centers and large hospitals with elaborate emergency rooms, operation theaters and trauma centers. As we know the number and quality of health facilities in a country or in a specific region is one common measure of that area's prosperity and quality of life. In Pakistan, health facilities are regulated to some extent by federal & provincial health ministries. In our urban and rural areas health facilities are generally owned and operated by for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, federal & provincial governments, private & public sectors and in some cases by individuals. So, there is a need for a very organized approach to collect health data and detailed information about available medical facilities from all mentioned above health providers.

Globally we are looking that there has been a tremendous progress in medicine as well as in informatics. One important benefit of this progress is that internationally average human life expectancy is nowadays significantly higher than it would have been even some few decades ago. Now considering health information systems (HIS), three questions need to be discussed: what are the lines of development in health information systems from the past until today? What is the importance and what consequences for a HIS in the future? And how to develop and design a well-organized health information system.

Definitely its time to design a mature and practicable health information system in Pakistan, which should be easily accessible for general public & also for health related authorities. To achieve the goal, following lines of development for HIS should be considered as most important: (1) an health information system which should be helpful to increase public awareness regarding drugs, lifesaving medication, available medical facilities & services, management of both acute & chronic diseases, (2) health information system which one should be help full to operate well organized hospital inquiry desks, (3) information about available medical centers for specific disease like TP, leprosy and sexually transmitted diseases, (4) construction of health information system in locally understandable languages by general public. (5) the shift from paper-based to computer-based processing and storage, as well as the increase of data in health care setups; (6) the shift from institution-centered & departmental hospital information systems towards regional and national HIS data base of Pakistan ; (7) the inclusion of patients and health consumers as HIS users, besides health care professionals and administrators; (8) the use of HIS data not only for patient care and administrative purposes, but also for health care planning by the federal, provincial and local govts; (9) use for clinical and epidemiological research; (10) the shift from mainly alpha-numeric data in HIS to images, graphs and tables to easily understandable for general public ; (11) the speedy increase of new technologies to be included for health monitoring & construction of health information system.

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