Health information systems continue to evolve. Over the years, the drive for digitization of health statistics, patient records, and associated information has led to a proliferation of systems and applications, each with their own design framework and data structure. A common result is that in a given country there may be many independent, isolated information systems and apps, which may contain overlapping information. In many cases, these systems operate “in silos,” leaving the ministries and other organizations that use them without simple options for combining and comparing data from different sources. This situation becomes even more complex and fragmented when taking into account non-health-related data--such as statistics on population, education, agriculture, among others. While the amount of valuable data that exists has greatly increased, the ability to analyze it across programs and sectors remains limited.
Two related concepts to help address this challenge are integration and interoperability. Integration refers to the process of unifying multiple different information systems so that they function as one, making electronic data available to all relevant users and harmonizing definitions and dimensions so that it is possible to combine the data in useful ways. Interoperability is one strategy to achieve integration, which involves aligning independent systems so that they can share data with each other. DHIS2 was designed as a platform that can receive and host data from different data sources and share it to other systems and reporting mechanisms. This allows DHIS2 to operate as a data warehouse for multiple systems--such as in this example from Afghanistan--and DHIS2 is interoperable with a number of existing systems, such as OpenMRS and various data collection tools. However, achieving wider interoperability depends on standards for data formats, interfaces, codes and terminologies. The challenge is that these internationally agreed-upon standards do not yet exist in many cases, and in their absence a multitude of local and ad hoc standards and definitions have proliferated.
DHIS2 is actively working towards the goal of greater interoperability. We are members of the OpenHIE Health Information Management System (HMIS) community, which was organized to lead the development and deployment of open-source technologies to better manage health information and promote better health outcomes. We are also active members of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), where we have participated in standards committees, hosted an international meeting of the group at the University of Oslo, and have been directly involved in authoring a number of IHE profiles related to exchange of heath data. Through engagement with these groups and others we continue to work toward developing and supporting global standards and increasing platform interoperability, including existing standards like FHIR. The DHIS2 team also collaborates with counterparts from other health information systems and applications to develop generic approaches for integration across platforms. In addition, the team publishes DHIS2-compatible code lists of common terminology that are aligned with SNOMED GPS, LOINC, and other common standards.
Read more about integration and interoperability concepts in the DHIS2 Implementer Guide
Contact the DHIS2 Integration Team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org