Strengthening the Health Management Information System (HMIS) in Thai Nguyen Province, Vietnam

A Council-developed computerized HMIS improved health data collection and the use of data for decisionmaking and informed Vietnam’s national strategic plan for computerizing its health information systems.

The Issue

Vietnam has a well-developed public health system. For example, Thai Nguyen Province has 21 hospitals and 181 commune health centers (CHCs) that serve a population of one million. Many poor and ethnic minority groups use CHCs for primary health care, and CHCs in more remote areas have higher visitation rates than those located closer to referral and district hospitals. But despite these differences in visitation rates, resources tend to be allocated disproportionately to CHCs located closer to referral and district hospitals, creating a mismatch between demand for resources and their allocation.

To allocate resources more equitably, the provincial health department needed accurate and timely data. However, manual record-keeping systems in Thai Nguyen were inaccurate and slow, limiting the health department’s ability to make evidence-based decisions. In addition, health information was being sent to the district level, but not back down to CHCs where it could be used to help staff make day-to-day decisions.

The Progress

In partnership with the provincial health department and others, the Population Council and colleagues developed a computerized health management information system (HMIS) to gather data more efficiently; generate a standardized report format for district, province, and national managers; and rapidly produce reports to support health care providers and managers at the commune level. All CHCs were equipped with computers and Council-developed HMIS software, and two staff members from each CHC were trained to enter data. Once entered, data are automatically processed and used to generate quarterly reports that are sent to the district, province, and national levels. The software also links to up-to-date population data; provides information on current health measures and indicators; and manages information on health programs, drug inventories, and equipment. CHC staff also use the HMIS to perform their day-to-day duties, such as scheduling immunizations for children.

In addition, the Council trained health officials at the commune and provincial levels on the importance of using health data from the CHCs to better understand health problems and health-seeking behaviors at the population level and to make better-informed policy and program decisions to improve health care throughout the province.

The Impact

The computerization of health information in Thai Nguyen is yielding concrete benefits for patients, health care providers, and managers. The time taken to input patient records, submit health insurance claims, manage drug inventories, and generate reports has been reduced by over 50% compared with the paper-based system.

Creating a computerized HMIS for Vietnam nationwide is a high priority for the Ministry of Health. Council staff have presented results from Thai Nguyen at national-level workshops, and the model developed by the Council has informed the resulting national strategic plan for applying information technology and using evidence for health management in Vietnam.

Principal Investigator

  • Ashish Bajracharya Deputy Director, Country Strategy & Regional Representative – South and East Asia, Bangladesh