Preparation for the future
An integrated information system for vaccines will help Guatemala's children get the immunizations they need.
Guatemala has recently introduced new vaccines for rotavirus and pneumococcal disease that require sophisticated systems for monitoring, transport, and storage. As the immunization program is growing in complexity and size, the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Services is developing an information system that will allow health program managers to digitally transmit important immunization data and more easily manage key supplies. The Pan American Health Organization and project Optimize, a collaboration between the World Health Organization and PATH, are assisting in this effort.
During the three-year project, we aim to develop an information system that enables the digital recording and transmission of immunization data and also supports the management of vaccine supplies and cold chain equipment. The pilot project will be implemented in the Ministry of Health’s health area of Ixil. The computerization of health information builds on an initiative already underway by Guatemala’s health information management system, called SIGSA, to connect three districts and Ixil to new software, the SIGSA Web. Once the system is operational in the fall of 2011, children’s immunization records will be entered into the SIGSA Web software, producing an immunization registry for each child that health providers can easily access. The information will also be captured in a database that allows health managers to analyze disease rates, monitor outbreaks, and obtain data on vaccine coverage. Our goal is to digitize data as early in the process as possible, ideally at the point of contact with the patient, in order to minimize staff time, errors, and delays, while maximizing accuracy and scalability.
Benefits to the country and region
By 2012, digitized immunization records will be part of a pilot system to integrate health information.
We anticipate this project will provide many benefits to Guatemala and the surrounding region, including:
- Digitization of immunization records, enabling better immunization coverage estimates and access to children’s immunization status.
- Daily record keeping that will facilitate a more sensitive surveillance system and improved ability to detect outbreaks through rapid alerts.
- Reduced administrative burden for health staff, allowing for provision of additional services to the community.
- An innovative health information system that can serve as an example for other countries in Latin America and the world.
- Documentation of lessons learned that can be helpful to other countries in Latin America and the world.
In addition to piloting a new computerized health system for the country, project Optimize will work with Guatemala to assess the conditions necessary to the scale-up of this intervention to enhance the country’s immunization supply system in the long run. Guatemala’s experience with the new system will be useful to other countries in the region that are offering new vaccines and moving toward computerized health information systems.
Photos, from top: PATH/Dan Chang, World Health Organization/Olivier Ronveaux.