According to WHO, “the health information system collects data from the health sector and other relevant sectors, analyses the data and ensures their overall quality, relevance and timeliness, and converts data into information for health-related decision-making.”
The health information system provides the underpinnings for decision-making and has four key functions:
Figure 5 – The four key functions of health information system.
A robust information system infrastructure requires the ability not only to provide and make available quality data, but also to receive data, so they need to support bi-directional communication (of alerts, population health statistics and case or care management) - to inform clinicians and decision-makers in real-time. Information architecture (AI) refers to the logical configuration of various elements, including hardware, software, information flow and technical standards needed to support the information needs of users. Robust AI can increase the effectiveness and scope of its performance by integrating internal and external information systems. A fundamental component of information architecture is interoperability. Interoperability is defined as “the ability of a system to exchange electronic health information and use information from other systems without additional effort by the user”. Problems with data interoperability (ie, send, receive, find, and eventually be able to of use) restricts data exchange with other interested parties (see example 5).
In fact, for an EHR to be effective, the data must be portable, which requires means to accurately and securely transfer the health data of a patient from one healthcare provider or facility to another in a timely and efficient manner. Hence, the main focus of EHR technologies is standardization and connectivity. In fact, integration within and outside the healthcare facility constitutes a successful EHR deployment. Seamless connectivity between multiple, distributed systems in the healthcare continuum is the cornerstone of delivering a complete and accurate picture of the patient, their condition, treatment received, and subsequent outcomes. These connectivity challenges have been approached through the computerization of the world’s healthcare operations and resulted in environments that are increasingly interoperable.In conclusion, despite the introduction of EHR, which aim at recording and making accessible a patient’s journey it is only recent advances in information technology that have created the infrastructure that allows these data to be used - by enabling data to be securely aggregated, stored, processed, and transmitted.