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A Culture of Data Use in Rwanda, One Click Away

Sample Display for Rwanda Health Management Information System (HMIS)

As the Rwanda Ministry of Health (MOH) seeks to strengthen their Monitoring and Evaluation systems, they are at the forefront of finding innovative ways to meet the information needs of their health care providers with web-based software – the Rwanda Health Management Information System (R-HMIS).

Rwanda MOH routinely tracks hundreds of health indicators to measure progress on combating priority diseases, monitor health service quality, and know when to celebrate successes. The challenge is to translate this routine health data into timely information that health providers, from rural clinics to district hospitals, can use to strategically make informed decisions about how best to provide services, what interventions work, and where to allocate scarce resources.

To overcome this challenge, the Rwanda MOH Health Information System Unit aimed to display routine health data in visually simple and user friendly formats using dashboards and reporting tools available on R-HMIS. But simply having good data on a web-based report does not guarantee its use. The Health Information System Unit needed to know: 1) what were priority indicators across many health areas, 2) how best to display data, and 3) how to produce not just a report, but an essential information tool for effective service provision.

In response to these needs, Futures Group’s Data Demand and Use Specialist, Eric Geers, helped to facilitate a workshop in Rwanda that brought together a diverse group of health professionals working across the health system. Technical support was provided through the USAID-funded Integrated Health Systems Strengthening Project. Futures Group Data Demand and Use facilitation tools were used to reach consensus on the initial information products available on the R-HMIS.

Groups from Malaria, Maternal and Child Health, and Non-communicable Diseases, to Health Financing, District Health Management, and Community Health worked together to apply the Framework for Linking Data with Action, a Futures Group tool that facilitates the use of Data in Decision Making and helps to build a comprehensive Data Demand and Use Strategy. The Framework was applied in a step-by-step process that identified target consumers of health information, matched data sources to information needs, developed user-friendly data formats, and provided guidance to health workers on further interpretation and investigation of indicator results.

By starting with essential information needs and presenting data in easily interpretable formats, Rwanda health care teams are now more likely to use data to make better decisions about how they provide services, reach their targets, and learn which interventions are most effective. When the use of data results in better health services, this generates demand for data and creates a sustainable culture of data use.