Belize Health Information Goes Digital: The Tiny Central American Nation of Belize Is Digitizing Its Health Information Systems. Concerns about Privacy Need to Be Set against Benefit to Patients

By Chanona, Janelle | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, February 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Belize Health Information Goes Digital: The Tiny Central American Nation of Belize Is Digitizing Its Health Information Systems. Concerns about Privacy Need to Be Set against Benefit to Patients


Chanona, Janelle, Bulletin of the World Health Organization


Perched on the Caribbean coast and as ethnically and culturally diverse as it is geographically, Belize has launched a cutting-edge web-based health information system. The Belize Health Information System (BHIS), which was inaugurated on 16 September 2008, links the Ministry of Health with the country's public and private hospitals, laboratories and clinics. The system allows data to be made available to authorized users anywhere in the country almost as soon as they are entered in the system. Benefits include the use of alerts and reminders to decision-makers connected to the system, a greater ability to track and monitor infectious disease outbreaks, and country-wide support for such programmes as the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

For Ian Smith, one of the founding developers of BHIS, the system not only improves the efficiency of the country's health system, but also encourages a more holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment: "Instead of focusing on a specific disease whenever a patient comes to them, doctors have access to their medical history, allowing them to ask the type of leading questions to provide a thorough check-up," Smith says, noting also that the system encourages participation from birth, establishing a patient ID "from cradle to grave".

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

BHIS's official roll-out was in September 2008, but the system's first modules were in fact piloted in 2005 at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, the country's flagship public health institution located in the capital, Belize City. The system has faced many challenges since then, including local bandwidth limitations that obliged the founders to scale down systems designed for developed countries; an erratic grid--electrical surges are commonplace in Belize and could damage the equipment needed to run the system; and the perennial budgetary constraints that limit many public health initiatives.

Smith is keen to stress that the system is not just a server designed to store health information. It is an adaptable system that serves many different users. "The type of information that a director [of a health centre or hospital] may need to make evidence-based decisions is different to the type of information that a maternal-child health nurse needs when they are vaccinating a child. The system is designed to meet these different requirements," he says. The director might require aggregate data for decision-making on such issues as medical supplies and human resources, while a nurse needs individual data such as patient history.

The system, which currently serves two-thirds of Belize's approximate population of 300 000, was financed initially through a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Caribbean Development Bank, with technical support received from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Accesstec of New Brunswick, Canada. In 2006, a grant was received from the Health Metrics Network, a Geneva-based partnership hosted by WHO, committed to facilitating better health information at the country, regional and global levels. That grant first brought the Belize system to Health Metrics Networks attention. The Network subsequently developed guidelines for all countries and, after studying the Belize model, found that it was in line with those recommended guidelines. In May 2008, Belize became the first country in the Americas to be granted priority technical support from Health Metrics Network and that means it will eventually receive financial resources for continued work on BHIS.

But while support has certainly come from outside, BHIS is very much a home-grown phenomenon. "Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, Belize has pioneered an outstanding example of a national health information system," says Dr Nosa Orobaton, chief of country programmes for Health Metrics Network, while Smith stresses the importance of consultation with the domestic health sector's key participants, including, notably, the director of health services, who is responsible for the delivery of services within the Ministry of Health.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Belize Health Information Goes Digital: The Tiny Central American Nation of Belize Is Digitizing Its Health Information Systems. Concerns about Privacy Need to Be Set against Benefit to Patients
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?