Status of Information Technology and Health Information Systems, Ministry of Health, Iraq
Information Technology (IT) and Health Information Systems (HIS) within the Ministry of Health (MOH) are in early stages of development. With the exception of two small networks, the Ministry, all computers are stand -alone desktop computers. There are no centralized databases. The Ministry has established standard HIS forms, tables, and reports, as well as standard processing and reporting responsibilities and relationships. But the use of information technology is very limited. Data is entered and processed using Microsoft Word, Excel, and to a very limited extent, Access. The Ministry has established few standard coding systems, has no minimum standard datasets, and no data dictionary. The Ministry is aware of problems with data quality, completeness, and timeliness from governorate health directorates. The Ministry is also aware of weaknesses in its current supervisory checklist system for monitoring the quality of services in health care facilities. Despite this very early stage of development there ar e surprising and very positive indications of strong capacity to develop and operate an effective HIS. The Ministry has strong capacity in survey design and data analysis. There is strong evidence that demand for quality data in decision making is driving HIS strategy. The Ministry has a very clear set of medium -term objectives for improving the effectiveness of the existing HIS. Activities over the past two years and on -going are clearly aimed at achieving these objectives. Key departments within the centr al Ministry are cooperating to achieve these objectives. Activities are extending to all levels of the system. Finally, major activities have the formal support of the Minister and the budget of the Ministry. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been pr oviding valuable support in the form of computers, networking, and telecommunications, and may be developing database applications to automate HIS data processing and reporting. Additional technical assistance is needed in several areas, including the fol lowing: IT strategy, management, and operations; networking and telecommunications; information systems security; software development; database design; website design and development; data transmission; end -user support systems; data quality assurance; and best practices in monitoring and evaluation systems.