DHIS2 – Focus on Open Source

The historical rivalry between Open Source and Proprietary software is slowly coming to a conclusion

Commenting on the purchase of github at  $7.5 billion, the CEO of the historically aggressively anti-open source company Microsoft, Satya Nadella settled it all for us saying, “We are all in on open source.” In this spirit, we at Avigail Systems give periodic insights into various open source solutions. Our focus today is DHIS2.

For the last six months, we have had the honor of working with an international NGO to deliver data collection (using USSD) for 30 clinics in Nairobi, posting the data to the Health Management System DHIS2 for analysis by the NGO and analyzing and visualizing the data in a separate portal for all the clinics.

DHIS2 is completely open source and free (free as in “free beer” – we in open source use that term, because unlike the French, the Queen did not help us differentiate between gratis (free as in free beer) and libre (free as in “free speech”))

DHIS2 is a robust, feature rich health management system used to aggregate statistical data collection, validation, analysis, management, and presentation. This data analytics and management platform is completely web-based and boasts great visualization features and the ability to create analysis from live data in seconds. In addition, DHIS2 can be used to monitor patient health, improve disease surveillance, map disease outbreaks, and speed up health data access for health facilities and government organizations.

Kenya (hiskenya.org) was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to deploy a totally online health information system (HIS) powered by DHIS2, which was completed in September 2011. The solution has so far been adopted by 60 countries world wide including the European Union.

Developed by the Health Information Systems Program (HISP) and supported by the University of Oslo’s Department of Informatics, DHIS boast of the following features as per the source documentation

  • Provide a comprehensive data management solution based on data warehousing principles and a modular structure which can easily be customised to the different requirements of a management information system, supporting analysis at different levels of the organisational hierarchy.
  • Customisation and local adaptation through the user interface. No programming required to start using DHIS2 in a new setting (country, region, district etc.).
  • Provide data entry tools which can either be in the form of standard lists or tables, or can be customised to replicate paper forms.
  • Provide different kinds of tools for data validation and improvement of data quality.
  • Provide easy to use – one-click reports with charts and tables for selected indicators or summary reports using the design of the data collection tools. Allow for integration with popular external report design tools (e.g. JasperReports) to add more custom or advanced reports.
  • Flexible and dynamic (on-the-fly) data analysis in the analytics modules (i.e. GIS, PivotTables,Data Visualizer, Event reports, etc).
  • A user-specific dashboard for quick access to the relevant monitoring and evaluation tools including indicator charts and links to favourite reports, maps and other key resources in the system.
  • Easy to use user-interfaces for metadata management e.g. for adding/editing datasets or health facilities. No programming needed to set up the system in a new setting.
  • Functionality to design and modify calculated indicator formulas.
  • User management module for passwords, security, and fine-grained access control (user roles).
  • Messages can be sent to system users for feedback and notifications. Messages can also be delivered to email and SMS.
  • Users can share and discuss their data in charts and reports using Interpretations, enabling an active information-driven user community.
  • Functionalities of export-import of data and metadata, supporting synchronisation of offline installations as well as interoperability with other applications.
  • Using the DHIS2 Web-API , allow for integration with external software and extension of the core platform through the use of custom apps.
  • Further modules can be developed and integrated as per user needs, either as part of the DHIS2 portal user interface or a more loosely-coupled external application interacting through the DHIS2 Web-API.

As is becoming with major open source software solutions, it is extremely hard to come across any Proprietary software that can compete with DHIS in terms of features and stability.

As with many open source projects, getting support in launching, training and maintaining can be challenging and frustrating.

As we move ahead at Avigail Systems, DHIS2 will be in our focus to help organizations launch and integrate it with other solutions




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