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Uganda Health Information Network (UHIN)

Summary

The Uganda Health Information Network (UHIN) is an innovative, low-bandwidth information network for health workers in Uganda that uses low-cost PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and a cellular telephony network to cut costs and improve the quality and availability of health information.

Program goals

Like many other African countries, Uganda has inadequate health resources and yet, is faced with massive health challenges, especially the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. This program aims to use technology to allow the Ministry of Health to collect critical health information more effectively and deliver this information along with health education and other resources to workers in the field.

Key program components

Health workers use the PDAs to collect public health data at the community level. They then upload that data and send it to one of 20 wireless access points (called African Access Points or AAP) via infrared, Bluetooth or wi-fi at a rural health facility. The AAP sends the data and messages over the cellular network to the server in Kampala, which routes them to the correct recipients to receive the required messages, data and health information.

District Health Offices receive data from various levels of health centers using the UHIN which includes monthly Health Management Information System (HMIS) reports, disease surveillance data, reports related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and the data used for ordering medicines.

Currently there are about 700 health workers in Rakai, Mbale, Manafwa, Lyantonde, and Bududa districts using UHIN for facilitating data and information exchange. Capacity building among health workers is achieved through regular broadcasts of content pertaining to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of major health problems.

A number of positive impacts were recorded early on: “The network delivered a 25% savings in the first 6 months...health workers using the handheld technology now have better job satisfaction and [it] is contributing to staff retention...”

The UHIN is planning to conduct an analysis to determine if the project has had an impact on health outcomes such as healthcare planning, resource allocation, and delivery.

Since 2003, there are 175 remote health facilities, serving more than 1.5 million people, that are able to send and receive data and medical updates using PDAs.