Until recent advance of web-based routine information systems, dissemination of our RHIS analyses and data visualizations has been a challenge. Passing around Access databases and Excel files on discs or flash drives can’t always reach the public-at-large, or even easily reach the stake-holders that should/need access to the RHIS data for their decision-making needs.
Now, with web-based systems, we have powerful tools that can solve the RHIS data dissemination problem we had in the past. Of course there is still a problem where the Internet hasn’t yet reached, and you need a certain amount of bandwidth, but definitely progress has been made in many of the countries where we are working to strengthen health information systems.
My question is, should access to the RHIS dissemination tools, like decision support systems, data visualizers and reporting systems be password protected? I can understand the need for confidentiality with patient-based systems, EMRs and eRegistries, but what about our aggregate data? Should we have RHIS data publically available so that we can reach the ultimate stake-holders, the people in the community who use the health system? Is there a level of aggregation in the system, like the District Level that data can be publically available, but other levels, like maybe the Facility Level that we may restrict to those who provide the services?
I know the Demographic and Health Survey project has dealt extensively and appropriately with the issue of confidentiality, and thus can make data publically available at the aggregate level. What should be the policy with RHIS data?
I look forward to your opinions on this issue.