Category Archives: DIGI

OpenELIS Selected for Google’s Innovative Season of Docs Program

Google has selected OpenELIS Global, a laboratory information system stewarded by the Digital Initiatives Group at I-TECH (DIGI), as a participant in the first year of its Season of Docs, a unique program that pairs technical writers with real-world open source projects. DIGI implements OpenELIS Global in Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti and manages contributions to the software as a part of the global developer community.

“We rely on talented contributors from the global health software community to ensure that our tools have the biggest impact and are available to the widest audience possible,” explained Casey Iiams-Hauser, Senior Digital Health Specialist with DIGI and the OpenELIS Global Product Owner. “By being transparent about our challenges and triumphs, we benefit from peer-to-peer sharing to problem solve for the benefit of the whole community.”

Technical writer Areesha Tariq was paired with the OpenELIS Global project as a part of the initiative. Based in Islamabad, Pakistan, Areesha has a background in software engineering and her writing focuses predominantly on user guides. She will work to improve OpenELIS Global end-user documentation by turning the current user manual into more pragmatic and accessible job aids.

Areesha is excited to join the team, saying, “I feel great to be selected as the technical writer for OpenELIS Global. It will be a new learning experience to work in an open-source community. I hope that I will be able to complete the project and continue working with the team so that I can contribute to a global cause.”

By participating in Google’s Season of Docs initiative, DIGI will not only benefit from Areesha’s contributions, it will also have the opportunity to increase awareness of OpenELIS in the global community by having our projects posted to the initiatives website and reviewed by a large number of technical writers, open source organizations, and contributors. “We are excited to be a part of Season of Docs,” said DIGI Managing Director, Joanna Diallo. “During the application process we met a number of highly qualified technical writers and observed a lot of interest in ‘global goods’ like OpenELIS.”

The idea for DIGI’s technical documentation project grew out of a proposal to PATH’s Digital Square project, which like Google’s Season of Docs, invests in critical technology that can be accessed worldwide. DIGI’s proposal was only partially funded by Digital Square to develop practical designs and generalizable approaches to achieve interoperability among open-source, clinic-level data management systems via the OpenHIE framework. These systems include OpenELIS; OpenLMIS, a laboratory management information system; and OpenMRS, an electronic medical records (EMR) system. However, the OpenELIS documentation scope of work remained unfunded.

“Having focused our thinking already on OpenELIS documentation gaps for the Digital Square application allowed us to pull together our Season of Docs application quickly,” explained Diallo. “It was fortuitous timing – and it is inspiring to see both PATH and Google investing in open source organizations.”

New Digital Group Offers Full Range of Digital Health Services

In winter 2019, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) launched a new unit: the Digital Initiatives Group at I-TECH (DIGI). The DIGI team builds upon 15 years of experience at I-TECH designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating health information systems (HIS) around the world.

The group — co-led by Dr. Nancy Puttkammer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health, and Jan Flowers, Clinical Faculty and Director of Global Health Informatics in the Clinical Research Group (CRIG) — provides services to help programs scope and build technical solutions to manage program or clinical data.

“The shared faculty lead role helps the group leverage diverse resources from departments across the university,” said Joanna Diallo, DIGI Managing Director.

By promoting open-source “global goods” that are supported by implementer communities, DIGI helps partners such as Ministries of Health to be able to own and continue to develop long-term solutions.

In April, Flowers received a Digital Square award to lead an online community of practice on open-source lab information systems like OpenELIS, and Dr. Puttkammer received a Digital Square award to design and test practical and generalizable solutions for interoperability between OpenELIS and two other leading open source tools: OpenMRS and OpenLMIS.

DIGI partners with global communities to develop and enhance digital tools and provide technical assistance for effective implementation and sustainability. The team works closely with on-the-ground experts and stakeholders to guide and facilitate governance, capacity building, and continuous quality improvement using a maturity model lens.

DIGI works in the following technical areas:

  • Software Design & Development
  • Health Data Exchange Standards
  • Health Systems Architecture
  • Information Security
  • Evidence-Based Evaluation and Implementation
  • Digital Health Workforce Development

“With investment from the I-TECH center to launch DIGI, we have been able to approach the work in a new way that is flexible and responsive and promotes cross project sharing,” explained Dr. Puttkammer. “We hope this will continue to strengthen the department’s standing as a leader in digital health.”

HIS Strategic Planning in Cameroon

National strategies, policies, and governance define the implementation environment for health information systems (HIS) and are recognized as a foundational building block for health system goals, including universal health coverage and control of HIV and other infectious diseases. I-TECH is supporting Cameroon’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to develop a national eHealth strategic plan by September 2019. A goal of the project will be to develop governance structures and processes, which can continue onward beyond the strategic planning process under MOH leadership, for on-going strategic direction, coordination, and oversight of investments in the national HIS.

National Data Warehouse and Dashboards in Botswana

I-TECH has worked with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other implementing partners in Botswana to develop and implement robust national health information system that enable greater efficiency and accountability and strategic use of information. I-TECH’s work on the National Data Warehouse ensures the availability of strategic information to monitor progress toward reaching epidemic control, with particular focus on Treat All, linkages to care, and HIV clinical cascade for 90-90-90 care continuum.

I-TECH and CHARESS Teams Present Lessons Learned at the Global Digital Health Forum

Casey-Iiams Hauser, Senior Informatics Implementation Specialist, presents on laboratory information systems at the Global Digital Health Forum in Washington, D.C.

The Fifth Annual Global Digital Health Forum was held from 10-11 December in Washington, D.C., attracting more than 300 participants to the FHI 360 Conference Center. At the forum, representatives from the new Digital Initiatives Group at I-TECH (DIGI) and its partner in Haiti, CHARESS, shared knowledge and lessons learned from 15 years of experience implementing digital health solutions worldwide.

The theme for this year’s forum was “A Shared Language for Digital Health,” and built on a foundation of the World Health Organization’s Classification of Digital Health Interventions.

“I welcome the messages from donors funding digital health work that they are shepherding a new era through the Digital Investment Principles,” said Joanna Diallo, DIGI Managing Director. “The conference provided DIGI an opportunity to present our contributions to global goods like OpenELIS, OpenMRS, and OpenHIE.”

Diallo moderated a panel titled “Different Labs Need Different Systems: An Exploration of Open Source Laboratory Information Systems Use in Global Health and the Community of Practice that Brings Them Together.” Jan Flowers, DIGI Faculty Co-Lead and Director of Global Health Informatics at the University of Washington Clinical Informatics Research Group, and Casey Iiams-Hauser, Senior Informatics Implementation Specialist with DIGI, were panelists, along with Steven Wanyee of IntelliSOFT, a former member of the I-TECH Kenya team.

The panel highlighted LIS as a critical component of national health information systems (HIS) architecture, exploring a complementary suite of open source LIS that are implemented across low- and middle-income countries, describing the laboratories and use cases each serves.

“The forum is a fantastic opportunity to meet with funders, on-the-ground implementers and technologists to discuss our work and learn about new initiatives and technologies,” said Iiams-Hauser. “We can leverage this knowledge for success both in our existing health information projects and in future partnerships.”

CHARESS HIS Lead Nathaelf Hyppolite participated in a session highlighting the development, implementation, and transition of EMR in developing countries, drawing on I-TECH and CHARESS’s work in Haiti. Participants heard about the benefits of an interoperable EMR: a unified data format, the ability to back up data, and that same data can be used to generate reports via DHIS2 from both the cloud servers and hardware EMR system. Hyppolite also shared the advantages and limitations of transitioning to an OpenMRS and OpenHIE platform, which bring experts together to share knowledge, standards, and best practices, as well as collaborate on technologies.

This focus on community and communication was noted by Diallo and the other participants. “DIGI really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about new standards and technologies, how to best approach digital health governance work, and how a shared language will help us collaborate and work together to ultimately improve health outcomes,” said Diallo.

Health Policy System Strengthening in South Africa

I-TECH will continue to support the National Department of Health (NDoH) in the process of strengthening the policy management and implementation systems with a focus on reaching the 95-95-95 targets.

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Transitioning OpenELIS Training and Implementation to Local Professionals in Côte d’Ivoire

For nearly a decade I-TECH has worked in Côte d’Ivoire in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and implement an electronic laboratory information system in key laboratories. In order to respond to evolving data needs and ensure timely access to quality laboratory data, an electronic LIS requires ongoing development and continuous user training and technical support.
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