Leveraging Digital Health Master Plan for COVID-19

For governments to effectively manage the health crisis caused by COVID-19, they must have the ability to make decisions based on reliable and consolidated data.
Today, the data that are key in this decision making – specifically in low- and middle-income countries – are those related to the availability and location of the infrastructure and sanitary facilities necessary to meet the needs of their populations. Identifying the infrastructure facilities will allow governments to allocate the necessary funding to the essential health services.
During a crisis, time is critical. Governments must be able to rely on what has already been accomplished to improve the information system and health surveillance. Those who started this work before the crisis will have a head start. They will already have critical data at their disposal to manage the crisis. This kind of data management and collection should not stop during the crisis. On the contrary, it is one of the crucial elements of health risk management and mitigation.
In the below, based on Bluesquare experience in the DRC and Niger, we describe the approach to leverage Digital Health Master Plan (Carte sanitaire in French) to tackle COVID-19.

Initial and ongoing work to build the Digital Health Master Plan

We have been supporting the DRC and the Niger Ministries of Health in the implementation of an interactive and dynamic health map of public and private health facilities (pharmacies, clinics and health centres).

The results of this work provide routine information, taking into account the health pyramid and population, to the health authorities (the Minister, Technical and Regional Directorates of the Ministry, Health Districts, Projects and Programmes, Partners, external agencies, NGOs, hospitals and health workers). With this information, they can better allocate resources and target underserved regions and populations. 

Bluesquare has specifically focused on identifying databases containing GPS coordinates of health structures, with precise information, such as photos and features that are specific to the DRC and Niger. In Niger, we identified 14 different databases, including the one from the SNIS (HMIS).

We also identified new sources of data to help increase the number of GPS coordinates on the health map, based on existing data. In the DRC, we have identified the following databases: Geolocation of health facilities in the Ebola response, a database from MSF/common geographical repository, a database from the PDSS containing the GPS coordinates of about 500 health facilities in Kinshasa and Kasai.

These multiple data sources, combined with a constant change of data (population estimates from remote sensing, settlement location, names of villages and settlements, health areas, health districts, health  facilities and “découpage communal”), inconsistency between sources (for example, the health layer does not always correspond to the administrative layer) require continuous integration.

Thanks to our visualisation tool, Dataviz, we have set up public portals to visualise the ongoing work on the health map (carte sanitaire) in Niger and the DRC.

Work that facilitates a quick response to COVID-19

In the framework of the COVID-19 response, countries must quickly identify the infrastructures and services they have at their disposal to address the disease and to target funds to acquire the ones still needed. 

In the DRC, where we have been working with the Health Ministry, supporting health information systems and helping the government to create the “carte sanitaire”, we are currently working with the national COVID-19 Task Force to help them tackle the disease.

We are providing support for the geolocalisation of the COVID capacity response (screening devices, in-patient beds, ventilator beds, critical care beds, laboratories, oxygen production units, etc.).

The work that has been done, and which is continuing with the health map (“carte sanitaire”), supports the establishment of an  “état des lieux” of the existing infrastructures and services for a COVID response.  We are putting in place an android app for the “carte sanitaire” update.

We are also investigating other databases that provide integrated information on the COVID Capacity response in order to consolidate data into a single digital database.

This work, while seemingly low-impact, reveals its importance with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministries of Health and different stakeholders are even more tempted to work with non-centralised databases, gathering data through excel files and sharing them by email, creating different versions of the same database. More than ever, a centralised digital database, to which the different actors can contribute, is critical.

In the first phase, Bluesquare, in partnership with the Agence Nationale d’Ingénierie Clinique d’Information et d’Informatique de Santé or ANICiiS, is identifying the different existing data flows and databases to have a clear view of the full process (what kind of data exist, how data are gathered, by who, and how often etc..) and inviting the different partners to share any complementary existing databases. When complete, the second phase is to propose a set of tools that take into consideration the actual flow of information, while switching from a decentralised multi-source database to one central tool. 

This information will be made publicly available via the public data visualisation interface: “STOP COVID

To get more information about Bluesquare’s support to COVID-19 response.

Centralizing monitoring and evaluation data for the USAID IHP in DRC

Annotation 0604 (2)The Integrated Health Project in the DRC (IHP USAID) 

The IHP USAID program (in French Programme de Santé Intégré de l’USAID en République Démocratique du Congo (PROSANI USAID) ) aims at strengthening the health system in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is funded by the US Development Agency (USAID) in close collaboration with the government of the country. The program focuses on maternal and child health, family planning, nutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

Bluesquare, as the program’s partner for data management and the development of digital tools, has provided support in three key areas.

  1. Facilitate the data collection and analysis process for the program’s 118 indicators to support the general monitoring and evaluation needs.
  2. Centralize all data collected as part of the program (inventory, household survey, quarterly report, etc.)
  3. Implement dashboards that can be made available to program technical advisors.

DHIS2… and more

Bluesquare has therefore developed the Mesure & Evaluation Platform (M&E Platform) for this program. Similar to a conventional DHIS2 platform, it includes some additional applications to support the specific needs of IHP USAID:

  • D2D: to transfer data in just one click directly from the official Health Management Information System DHIS2 (National HMIS DHIS2) to IHP DHIS2 – especially for all M&E indicators that rely on national data;
  • Iaso: to transfer Etat des Lieux data to IHP DHIS2;
  • Hesabu : to calculate the most complex indicators of the logical framework and store the results in the IHP DHIS2; 
  • DataViz : to present selected data on a public “user-friendly” interface in order to share the program’s results: https://suivi-evaluation.ihp-prosani.com/data.

Copie de M&E Platform EN

A secure and reliable platform

Access to the M&E Platform is ID and password protected. These can be provided upon request by the M&E team. Each user is assigned one (or more) role(s) based on what they will need to work on in the platform. This approach helps to limit the risk of errors that could cause problems later when using the tool.

In the case of this platform,  4 roles have been defined that can be combined by need and by geographic areas in order to further limit the risk of error (for example: encode data for a province difference from your own): Input, Visualization, Analyst, Superuser.

Data extraction for the development of project evaluation indicators

The source of data

A total of  118 indicators are used to assess IHP USAID’s progress. These indicators are calculated based on data from a variety of sources. The more sources there are for the data the richer the insights we can gather from these indicators. The integration includes mainly the data collected by the Ministry of Health (available in the National DHIS2 HMIS) and some additional data from the project (Project Monitoring Report – PMR data). Thanks to the tools described above, Bluesquare was also able to enrich this with additional data from one-off surveys (IHP Household Surveys or data being collected by the Ministry of Health to evaluate the status of the health system at any given time called “Etat des lieux”) as well as other external surveys and disease specific databases. 

Ensure a very large amount of data extraction

Using the D2D tool, Bluesquare will extract these different data and merge them with IHP DHIS2 data.

To provide a sense of the process to manage such complex routine data integration we herewith provide an overview of the transactions and some data security measures put in place to ensure quality data exchanges.

  • Data from the National health information system (HMIS) are imported quarterly from a copy of the DHIS2 SNIS (so as not to endanger the proper functioning of the real DHIS2 HMIS during the data transfer). This also means that the HMIS data is not updated on a daily basis and thus remains “fixed” once imported into the platform which  allows for methodological consistency to be maintained in trends analysis. The HMIS DHIS2 remains an essential data source for day-to-day data analysis and to observe “absolute” figures.
  • Data from the Project Monitoring Report (PMR) are added directly to the M&E Platform via data collection forms available on a monthly, quarterly or annually basis depending on the monitoring needs of the M&E team.
  • Data from État des Lieux (EDL) This data is collected in a tool called IASO, that collects and manages the data in parallel to the DHIS2. 
  • The remaining data (IHP Household survey and other sources) are manually imported into the IHP DHIS2 by the Bluesquare team. 

How the platform will be implemented going forward

The M&E Platform is now being used for ongoing reporting.

To ensure the tools meet the user needs, run smoothly and capture data effectively, the  M&E leads will test the PMR data entry forms on a provincial level. This evaluation of user needs will play a key role in the next iteration of potential improvements to ensure the quality of the data captured for the program monitoring remains consistent.

Additional dashboards will also be developed by the Bluesquare team to help M&E teams capture and visualize the essential information on the definition of indicators.

And the M&E platform itself will continue to be adapted thanks to ongoing dialogue and discussions on the tool, its use and its effectiveness to be sure it continues to meet the needs of the IHP USAID team.

M&E platform EN-rr-1


You can now manage your Dataviz directly in DHIS2

Do you use dataviz to demonstrate your program results? Today we are pleased to announce that you will be able to manage your dataviz directly in DHIS2. Thanks to our new DHIS2 Data Viz app!

Access to the app will allow you to easily make changes to your platform. You can configure all display settings, sections, change their order, …

The app is available directly via the app menu on DHIS2.

For a tour of the app, or if you have trouble finding the app in DHIS2 contact your project manager or our DataViz product owner.

Continued updates to the design

Thanks to your continued feedback and our user analysis, we have made a few additional updates to the Data Viz layout. Here’s what’s new:

  • Main content placement. Most visitors to the site are interested in the national level results. So we have moved this information to the left for ease of reading.  
  • Health Center attributes. The number of sub-zones, the attributes describing the health centers, the photos and the grouping, were not visible enough. We have added a dedicated space for the attributes describing the health zones and increased the visibility of the photos of the health centers.

We hope you find these changes helpful as you continue to use Data Viz to articulate your program needs to your various partners and stakeholders.

Example of groups display in RCA

Boris Rorsvort
Dataviz Product Owner

From lab coat to tablet

The first impression you get when you meet Romain is his discreet nature, attention to detail, commitment to quality and a dedication to the work he does. So when we asked him to tell us about himself, it was clear we wanted to understand how he got where he is today.  

While his journey was not linear we immediately notice a central theme: his commitment to understanding complex problems and his desire to make an impact.