Upgraded Record Keeping Helps Save Lives in Sri Lanka

April 17, 2014

Sri Lanka Ministry of Health

  • The paper-based state hospital management information system in Sri Lanka was instituted at the beginning of the last century and has since then evolved and expanded in scope.
  • Timely and accurate record keeping can save lives by informing authorities to make evidence based decisions on prevention and cure of diseases.
  • The World Bank is supporting the implementation of the Government’s National Health Development Plan (NHDP) to upgrade the standards of performance of the public health system to better respond to the challenges of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The project supports the transition from a manual system to an electronic data management system.

Prevention of vector borne diseases was the theme of World Health Day 2014. Dengue is the main vector borne disease prevalent in Sri Lanka. Other vector borne diseases in Sri Lanka include leishmaniasis and typhus, which affect a small number of patients; malaria and filariasis, which are at near elimination status; and Japanese encephalitis, which is well under control thanks to an immunization program.  Sri Lankan authorities and the public are taking measures to prevent the loss of life and related illnesses from such diseases.  

Patient visits in the public and private health sectors in Sri Lanka are currently reported through an established paper-based recordkeeping system.  The delay in acquiring timely and accurate data has a significant impact on planning and managing resources needed to prevent and cure diseases. The Ministry of Health has taken steps to rectify this issue by moving to a modern digital system of capturing patient records with support from the World Bank.

" Use of technology to make patient information more accessible in a timely manner would further help improve the performance of the health system in Sri Lanka. "

Kumari Vinodhani Navaratne

World Bank Project Lead

Sri Lankan Public Health Sector

The Sri Lankan public health sector accounts for almost 90-95% of all inpatient admissions, 50-60% of all outpatient consultations, and almost the entire provision of preventive healthcare in the country.

Sri Lanka’s paper-based state hospital information system was instituted at the beginning of the last century and has since then evolved and expanded in scope. The recording and transferring of all health related data into the public health domain is done manually.

The Challenge                                  

Many health facilities lack adequate numbers staff to engage in data entry work. In addition, computers, physical storage facilities and internet connectivity are unavailable in most medical record rooms. Only a few health facilities produce periodic hospital statistics bulletins.

“It is encouraging to note the commitment and dedication of some health facilities to learn and adopt the new system” said Dr. Champika Wickramasinghe, Acting Senior Assistant Secretary of Medical Services and Director Health Information in the Ministry of Health. “Very soon we hope to reach all 624 hospitals and have an upgraded system with more committed staff to make this process a success” she emphasized.

The Response

“125 out of 624 hospitals island-wide have already adopted the online system after a basic training for hospital based Medical Record Officers” said Dr. Buddika Dayaratne, Medical Officer Health Informatics, Medical Statistics Unit, Ministry of Health. “This system will reduce repeated data entry and will capture data in a timely manner so that we can provide a better service in making accurate health information available for policy makers and public,” he further stated.

The National Health Development Plan (NHDP) aims to modernize the Health Management Information System (HMIS) in the country in line with the country’s overall vision of developing Sri Lanka into a ‘knowledge economy’ leveraging e-governance and information and communication technologies. By end of 2018, it is expected that majority (more than 80%) of the state health facilities will be reporting in-patient information through an electronic recording system.