Uganda Launches National Human Resources for Health Information System

Yesterday, the Uganda Ministry of Health (MOH) and USAID/Uganda jointly launched the country’s human resources for health information system (HRHIS), which provides up-to-date information on the country’s health workforce for evidence-based decision-making. Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi presided over a launch ceremony at the Hotel Africana; Minister of Health Honorable Richard Nduhura delivered a speech and held a press conference.

Previously, Uganda’s health leaders relied on a complex system of paper files that made it impossible to compile and analyze information on the country’s available health workforce. Indeed, even finding one health worker’s record was difficult. The national HRHIS system will provide the information needed to develop and monitor strategies for health workforce issues ranging from absenteeism to credential verification to geographical or training gaps.

Uganda’s HRHIS is built on the iHRIS software, a suite of open source tools for managing and planning the health workforce developed and supported by IntraHealth International through several USAID-funded projects. Because the software is open source, the IntraHealth-led Uganda Capacity Program tailored it to meet Uganda’s specific needs.

A customized version of iHRIS Qualify, a registration and licensure tracking database, is used by the country’s four professional health councils to maintain records on the country’s more than 46,000 qualified health workers. A customized version of iHRIS Manage, a human resources management system, is installed at the central MOH, 69 district health offices, 15 hospitals, the Uganda Virus Research Institute, and Nakasero Blood Bank. The MOH aggregates information and shares it with other national health information systems, such as those residing at the Ministry of Public Service and Ministry of Education and Sports.

The Uganda Capacity Program provides technical assistance for customizing and installing the HRHIS and, in collaboration with other partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Baylor College of Medicine, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, is helping the MOH roll it out to all 112 districts. IntraHealth’s global CapacityPlus project is assisting the Uganda Capacity Program to support stakeholder leadership and ownership, improve data quality, and increase the use of health workforce data.

The councils can now track the number of health workers by cadre, verify licenses and practice requirements, and provide information to ensure new hires are properly qualified. Council data are used to influence funding for preservice education, advocate for the recruitment of more health workers, and inform the country’s health workforce strategic plan. Likewise, health workforce managers produce a number of reports, including staff lists that are compared with approved staffing norms to identify vacancies or overstaffing and—with the country’s payroll system—to recognize and eliminate “ghost workers.” Health workforce managers can also generate detailed profiles of an individual health worker’s employment history and run reports to project staff losses due to retirement, for example.

In a press release about the event, the MOH and USAID/Uganda stated they are confident the HRHIS will enable equitable distribution of health care workers and effective planning, so that all Ugandans can enjoy better access to quality health care services.

Over 200 participants attended the launch ceremony, including representatives from Uganda’s ministries, the World Health Organization, World Bank, and USAID/Uganda. Several IntraHealth staff took part in the ceremony: Dr. Vincent Oketcho, IntraHealth’s chief of party for the Uganda Capacity Program, led the program, providing a brief history of the HRHIS in Uganda and the objectives of the launch. Other members and partners of the Uganda Capacity Program team made essential contributions including setting up more than a dozen live demos and presenting the wealth of data available from the system.

IntraHealth’s Dykki Settle, architect of the iHRIS software said, “Uganda was the original pioneer of these systems, working with IntraHealth to design, develop, and deploy country-appropriate health workforce information systems, but always with a mind to developing something any country could use. Today, more than a dozen countries have adopted the software, following and benefitting from Uganda’s innovation and leadership.”