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Table 4 Recommendations for designing and implementing the core components of a health information system during an emergency

From: Improving health information systems during an emergency: lessons and recommendations from an Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone

Core HIS component Recommendations
Overall Use the inputs and outputs from Table 2 as a framework to design the HIS
Create an overall plan of which system components will be needed, including priorities and thinking through contingencies
Incorporate feasible evaluations (e.g. user questionnaires, comparison of records) into system planning from start if possible
Create communication channels with other organizations to share HIS components throughout the emergency
Data collection tools Investigate whether adaptable tools already exist through other organizations or in similar emergencies
Pre-plan as many tools (e.g. forms, databases) as possible, and treat them as a unit
Include error reduction techniques from the beginning (e.g. check digits)
Communication of data Identify range of approaches that will allow data communication with speed, accuracy, and confidentiality
Test different methods early and make sure they are working for all relevant parties
Think unconventionally (e.g. plasticized paper) if needed
Coordination amongst relevant parties Maintain communication between HIS and other relevant departments throughout the emergency
Try to hire staff in leadership roles who can stay involved for a long period to minimize turnover
Pre-plan handover strategies, including overlap timing between outgoing/incoming staff and written handover notes
Staff training Create tools in advance that are easy-to-use and easily updated (e.g. simple PowerPoint slides) for training sessions
Allow time for staff to become familiar with the data collection tools
Ensure that training includes “do”s and “don’t”s for high-quality data collection based on tools in use
Develop a plan for training, including training schedules, frequency of refresher trainings, and easy accessibility to HIS staff outside of regular training
Make easy-to-access tools (e.g. laminated, annotated forms in the clinicians station) available in addition to training sessions
Ensure training is done in as many languages as necessary for staff to be fully trained
Data management Make and use databases for data digitization as early as possible
Perform digitization in as close to real-time as possible
Hire staff according to planned double entry during digitization if possible
Ensure that all patient data are securely stored, and develop a plan in advance for what will happen to the patient records after the emergency ends
Data analysis/ reporting Develop templates and analysis scripts for reports to internal and external actors
Ensure that one master database is used for analyses