Summary of RHINO’s Side Session Panel at HSR2018

Achieving Universal Health Coverage: The role of Routine Health Information Systems

RHINO Side Session Panel, Hilton Liverpool City Centre, October 10, 2018


The Routine Health Information Network (RHINO) organized an interactive panel discussion to explore the role of routine health information systems (RHIS) in achieving universal health coverage (UHC) on Wednesday, October 10th at the Hilton Liverpool City Centre. The event was organized as a side session of the 2018 Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR). RHINO is an NGO established under the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation project in 2001 to advocate for strong RHIS.

As countries continue to invest in and make strides toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UHC, strong RHIS are fundamental to this effort. Effective RHIS provide a wealth of data on a country’s health system that can be harnessed to identify gaps and support evidence-based decision making. Yet, while many low-to-middle income countries (LMIC) have established a national RHIS structure, there are existing challenges relating to availability, analysis, and use of the data that are in need of solutions.

The theme of the fifth HSR, which convened over 2,000 health systems researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, focused on advancing the health systems for all in the SDG era. RHINO used the opportune occasion to convene a wide range of global health experts and practitioners, and hosted a complementary discussion that focused on the approaches currently employed in LMICs to strengthen RHIS with a greater intention of improving the quality and equity of national health service delivery.

The RHINO session garnered 38 registrations and around 40 participants were in attendance. Jean-Pierre de Lamalle, President of RHINO, welcomed the audience to the sixth International Meeting of RHINO and gave a brief introduction of the NGO, its mission, and previous work.  A panel of four experts, drawing from their professional experience, presented on the panel theme through different lenses.

  • Theo Lippeveld from John Snow, Inc. (JSI) presented on the role and importance of decentralized RHIS and the current issues hindering existing RHIS in developing countries, notably the absence of an information culture. He discussed the drivers for a data culture and explored a case study from the Soro Woreda in Ethiopia, the challenges, and the way forward.
  • Tariq Azim from MEASURE Evaluation then presented on creating ownership and accountability within the community using community health data. After covering basic principles and performance measurement, Tariq shared cases from: Liberia’s Ebola crisis; community-based maternal death surveillance in Ghana and Malawi; and community-based TB-DOTS in Mozambique.

Following the two presentations, participants gathered into groups for a break out session to process the two presentations and to discuss the shared accountability for health data cases and the matrix for qualitative monitoring of a community forum for shared accountability. The second half of the panel shifted from culture and community to focus on the role of eHealth architecture.

  • Vikas Dwivedi from JSI discussed the role of eHealth architecture and interoperability in HIS to achieve UHC. He explained how architecture can facilitate communication between building blocks and promote interoperability across components. He used examples from Ethiopia and Tanzania on designing interoperable systems that provide continuity in care and support decision making.
  • Jean-Pierre de Lamalle then further expanded on the topic by providing a use case and presented on CERHIS, an information system based on android tablets for health facilities in low-resource environments, and the lessons learned from a pilot project in Kinshasa, including the importance of good governance.

Following the last round of presentations, was a final Q&A period. The session concluded with Jean-Pierre making final remarks and welcoming participants to join a reception to enjoy light refreshments and networking.

During the week, RHINO took the opportunity to conduct a Core Group meeting to discuss follow-up items from the last Board of Director’s meeting, including membership, ideas for website development, and nominees for Board Members.