Medical Information Infrastructure

The more I learn about the pace and scope of development in Kazakhstan, the more I’m struck by the importance of information infrastructure systems in effective healthcare delivery. In one of it’s strategic planning initiatives, Kazakhstan’s government identified “(the creation of) a new model of healthcare management and a unified information network for the sector” as an important goal in the National Programme for Health Care Reform and Development 2005-2010. To this end, Medical Information Centers were established (2008) in all oblasts of the country (for the uninitiated, an oblast is a type of administrative unit, like a US state).The goals of the Medical Information Centers include

  • coordinating the implementation, maintenance and development of the unified health information system according to set goals and objectives;
  • ensuring the functioning of the health information infrastructure;
  • developing a unified system for medical and statistical reporting and accounting, using new data collection and processing technologies;
  • receiving and processing statistical reports from health facilities, and monitoring the statistical reporting and accounting in oblast health facilities, particularly in rural areas;

Effective management of data in healthcare allow for significant returns to scale in healthcare delivery. Currently,Kazakhstan has no comprehensive mechanism for human resource management and planning that takes into account the distribution and allocation of staff to facilities. Strategic development of information management systems have the potential to alleviate this problem in the future. Public health professionals and planners will be able to organize resources for effectively as data collection improves.

Further, providers are not immune to the data bug. In a recent presentation, I heard Dr. Brent Egan of Medical University South Carolina’s OQUIN network talk about the effect that quantitative data had on primary care physicians. Many physicians were initially reluctant to turn over patient data due to potential HIPPA violations and the increased workload it entailed. However, many were convinced when they could literally see the data organized in front of them in almost real time. Accurate and timely feedback enabled doctors to address patients problems on a macro level as they occurred.

By extending the data collected through the Medical Information Centers to primary care providers in rural areas of Kazakhstan through cell phones and mHealth, physicians are likely to have a better on the ground response to health conditions. By making this a two way system, Medical Information Centers stand to benefit from the increased data collection that widespread mobile use can provide. This can help alleviate the shortfalls in personelle allocation that currently occur.

Finally, the United States is not immune to this problem as well!

Citations, for anyone who is interested:

Katsaga A, Kulzhanov M, Karanikolos M, Rechel B. Kazakhstan: Health system review. Health Systems in Transition, 2012; 14(4):1-154