Analysis of electronic versus manual data collection for disease surveillance in Nigeria

As in other lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), the disease surveillance and notification process in Nigeria largely relies on lengthy manual processes of capturing data on paper forms.  Multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recognized that advances in data availability and technology might enable institutions to benefit from electronic data collection, allowing for more accurate, timely and complete data for health policy and strategy, especially to manage disease outbreaks and disaster response projects.

To that end, this Data Innovation Fund project, “Retrospective Analysis of Electronic Vs. Manual Health Data and Disease Surveillance Records for Implications of Outbreak Management in LMICs, using Nigeria as a Case Study”, researched and analyzed existing available health data from two states in Nigeria that use both electronic data collection and paper-based data collection methods. The project findings were captured in a report outlining the potential incremental impact of electronic data management versus traditional methods on disease outbreak policy, mitigation planning, and strategy.

Led by InStrat Global Health Solutions, the team’s analytical theory was that electronic health data capture would be a more effective framework for LMICs to adopt for health policy determination. They conducted research in three local government areas in Nigeria where electronic data capture systems were implemented for at least one year (2018). The methodology involved qualitative methods (desk research, in-depth interviews, qualitative surveys) and quantitative methods (statistical, comparative data analysis, completeness analysis, and accuracy analysis). Responses and analyses confirmed the team’s analytical theory that electronic health data capture was a superior method for health management.

The project concluded that electronic data management could be achieved through broad adoption of information and communications technology (ICT) for health care management. These technology platforms could strengthen LMICs’ capacity to prevent widespread disease outbreaks, manage them when they occur, and recover faster and stronger. As an example, technologies adopted by West African countries in the wake of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak are helping them to manage the current COVID-19 pandemic in the region.

While the conclusion of the research regarding the superiority of electronic-based management systems was unsurprising, this research could be useful to LMIC policymakers in framing arguments and strategies for the adoption of ICT as a means to strengthen their health systems. The need for LMICs to be more proactive around disease outbreak response and management has become particularly clear given the current global coronavirus pandemic, and adopting ICT for health care management is a strong step in the right direction.

Relevant Sustainable Development Goal: 3 (Good Health and Well-being).

Final Report

Lessons Learned Report

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