Lessons and Implementation Challenges of Community Health Information System in LMICs: A Scoping Review of Literature
Background: Accurate and timely information on health intervention coverage, quality, and equity is the foundation of public health practice. To achieve this, countries have made efforts to improve the quality and availability of community health data by implementing the community health information system that is used to collect data in the field generated by community health workers and other community-facing providers. Despite all the efforts, evidence on the current state is scant in Low Middle Income Countries (LMICs).
Objective: To summarize the available evidence on the current implementation status, lessons learned and implementation challenges of community health information system (CHIS) in LMICs.
Methods: We conducted a scoping review that included studies searched using electronic databases like Pubmed/Medline, World Health Organization (WHO) Library, Science Direct, Cochrane Library. We also searched Google and Google Scholar using different combinations of search strategies. Studies that applied any study design, data collection and analysis methods related to CHIS were included. The review included all studies published until February 30, 2022. Two authors extracted the data and resolved disagreements by discussion consulting a third author.
Results: A total of 1,552 potentially relevant articles/reports were generated from the initial search, of which 21 were considered for the final review. The review found that CHIS is implemented in various structures using various tools across different LMICs. For the CHIS implementation majority used registers, family folder/card, mobile technologies and chalk/white board. Community level information was fragmented, incomplete and in most cases flowed only one way, with a bottom-up approach. The review also indicated that, technology particularly Electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS) and mobile applications plays a role in strengthening CHIS implementation in most LMICs. Many challenges remain for effective implementation of CHIS with unintegrated systems including existence of parallel recording & reporting tools. Besides, lack of resources, low technical capacity, shortage of human resource and poor Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure were reported as barriers for effective implementation of CHIS in LMICs.
Conclusion: Generally, community health information system implementation in LMICs is in its early stage. There was not a universal or standard CHIS design and implementation modality across countries. There are also promising practices on digitalizing the community health information systems. Different organizational, technical, behavioural and economic barriers exist for effective implementation of CHIS. Hence, greater collaboration, coordination, and joint action are needed to address these challenges. Strong leadership, motivation, capacity building and regular feedback are also important to strengthen the CHIS in LMICs. Moreover, CHIS should be transformed in to eCHIS with integration of different technology solutions. Local ownership is also critical to the long-term sustainability of CHIS implementation.