The regions, nations, and communities that comprise the developing world face a wide variety of health-related challenges, and the health systems that address those challenges are struggling with limited resources and capability. Health leaders must therefore focus on maximizing the value of scarce resources and finding ways to make health systems operate as efficiently as possible. Having reliable data on the performance of different parts of the health system is the only way to devise, execute, and measure health interventions. Successful strengthening of health systems will require relevant, timely, and accurate information on the performance of the health system itself. The goal of a health information system (HIS) is to provide that information.
This document considers several aspects of health information systems for developing countries. First, it looks at the threats to health and the challenges facing health care systems in the developing world. Next, it surveys the landscape of efforts to specify and create successful HIS at the national level. Then it examines three case studies in depth and finally reviews the important challenges and opportunities associated with creating an effective HIS.