e Government & Health Informatics in Sri Lanka: A Synopsis

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If your looking hard enough it would seem that there is a systematic rise in the ICT services given by the Government & Private Sector to us citizens.

Recently I had the opportunity of attending a workshop by Information Communication and Technology Agency of Sri Lanka.

History of Health Informatics in Sri Lanka

The first real initiative was to setup the Health Informatics Society of Sri Lanka in 1998. The initial steps were to make medical professionals aware that such a subject exists!

These small steps became giant strides with the establishment of the MSc in Biomedical Informatics programme at the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo.

Sri Lanka is probably the only country in the world which has over 50 MBBS qualified medical doctors who are working for the Ministry of Health as Health Informatics officers!

This initiative has seen the slow but steady transformation of public health data especially with indoor morbidity and mortality returns and a health information hotline. The increase of basics such as government websites and email has also increased by this venture. Newer projects like facility surveys, online transfers, payment reconciliation are also in the early stages of implementation and acceptance. We will delve into these in detail in another post.

This has also trickled down to other allied bodies like professional medical associations who have also taken helping the public using ICT seriously.

History of eGovernment in Sri Lanka

While it may seem that eGovernment arrived a little later its impact is no less significant. The watershed moment arrived in 2003 when the Information Communcation and Technology Agency was established to take all ICT decisions for the country.

The first steps taken were the introduction of the e Government Policy in 2009 which had a target to be implemented in 2012. While this could not be fully achieved, it was certainly good enough to start a public review of the eGovernment policy.

ICTA in eHealth

The marriage of the ICTA with eHealth starts in 2011 with the introduction of a HHIMS, a hospital information system in a small Divisional Hospital called Dompe. The initial success of this system saw it being implemented in 2 others hospitals in the Western Province with expansions in other provinces as well.

The ICTA continues to develop websites and systems for many government organizations involved in health care.

What the future holds

The introduction of a strong workforce in health informatics coupled with friendly sectoral and national policies points to a rosy future for health informatics. In order to achieve this however, a symbiosis is required between the Ministry of Health and the ICTA.

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