Health Information Management – for lifesaving actions
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh - WHO’s health information management is at the core of its emergency response in Cox’s Bazar. Coordinating health operations of over 100 national and international partners running 270 facilities in the Rohingya camps, one of WHO’s key role is to gather, analyse and provide information to facilitate lifesaving actions for the nearly 1.3 million vulnerable Rohingya refugees and their host communities.
Since October 2017, Rosie Jeffries has been coordinating the health sector information management team, working with government and partners, to give everyone a real time situation update.
“We are collecting, analysing and sharing data about the location of health facilities, the services they offer and the existing gaps. Together with partners we are producing reports and detailed maps that are being used for various purposes – from daily patient referrals to overall coordination and preparedness and for taking corrective measures. These are being used to drive decision making as well as for information/reference,” says Rosie.
Technology plays a crucial role in data gathering and analyzing process involving thousands of staff in a very challenging geographical and topological conditions. Geolocation devices, simple mobile apps, shared drives, software for data compilation - are all weapons of information managers in their battle with time and uncertainty.
“Recently we set up a WhatsApp group of the partners managing the health facilities. This is more in the context of emergency response for the monsoon season so that we get real time updates about the facilities that are affected or temporarily closed due to weather conditions. This information is crucial for immediate decisions such as deploying mobile medical teams to the affected areas for health services.”
“In preparing for monsoon season, the health sector identified a number of direct risks and acute watery diarrhoea was on the top of that list. We collected information about facilities that can isolate and manage infectious diseases. This mapping helped facilitate geographical distribution of these facilities to ensure that the entire population is served in an outbreak scenario.”
However, given the magnitude of the crisis and its duration, one of the main challenges of information managers is to keep the information updated in a fast and continuously changing environment.
“The big challenge is to keep all information as updated as possible, particularly at this stage when the risks are high and some facilities are closing due to lack of funding or because they are affected by rain”, says Rosie.
“We also need to verify the information that we receive, and often conduct field trips, because accuracy of information, for example about a hospital location, can make the difference between life and death.”