Graduates who have benefitted from the a transformative four-week blended training for health professionals in health informatics are issuing high praises.
The training initiative by Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) was launched on June 26th as part of the Makerere University’s thrust to ensure the capacity building for the health sector, with the essential skills in the implementation and utilization of health information systems and health data within healthcare settings, ultimately enhancing service delivery.
Lauding the facilitators for their exceptional training and mentorship, participants express that the course arrived precisely when they required it the most.
Denis Masiko Kasigeire, a medical doctor in charge of Maziba Health Center IV in Kabale District's Ndorwa West county, expressed his satisfaction as one of the 36 participants completing the debut training. He emphasized that the health informatics course has greatly enhanced his understanding of the significance of telemedicine in today's era.
"For the period of time I have been the in-charge, I could say to some of my colleagues I used to work with to be specific, the health information assistants; these are the people who are basically responsible for data collection and submission to the various points where this information is required. I didn't really appreciate so much on my side the work these people were doing not because it was in bad faith but majorly because I for one, I did not understand the technicalities and the aspects of their work within the facility," said Dr. Masiko.
The medical doctor received his certificate of completion in the Health Informatics course for a period June 26th to July 28th 2023, which was organised in collaboration with the Makerere University College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) at a function held at Mulago Guest house, Kampala on 11th August, 2023.
The course featured modules such as Health Information Technology, Electronic Medical Records, Health Systems and Health Information Systems in Uganda, Digital Health and Telemedicine, Healthcare Data collection and management, Clinical decision support systems, Big Data Analytics in Health Care and Health care I.T industry from a global perspective.
Dr. Masiko initially thought that focusing solely on medical procedures like emergency and cesarean deliveries were key for his kind of work but with this course, he recognizes that patient care quality hinges on effective data collection and submission to essential points.
“I really appreciated how important it is to carefully have your data collected, to carefully analyze it and to select what makes sense to the facility and what doesn’t. It was a very big learning point for me and where we are headed, even in the field of medicine, digitalization is going to be a part of it and it's really a very wonderful discipline that I have enjoyed at a certificate level. I am pondering about pursuing this at a master's level,” he said.
Another participant, Amos Bangirana, who is and Information Technology Specialist at BRAC Uganda, says there was no other great timing for this course like this when he was doing his research on effects of digital health and maternal health care for his Master’s Degree in Public Administration at Uganda Management Institute.
"It was a spot-on course. It has helped me to get to many things I did not know. I was also blending in with medical doctors. I got to understand how to specify health systems and how they should come about and now with these teams that have been interacting with, I can feel that it's not the end here, we should remain united. We have people from different walks of life, we have software developers, we have doctors, but all of us can work together to digitize the health systems of Uganda," he said.
For Anthony Wakwale, a public health trainee at Mountains of the Moon University, the course was "very informative". He however decried the short time and urged the organizers to increase the study period from 4 weeks to 3 or more months.
Balibuza Banuli, a Pharmacist at Bugiri General Hospital just like Bangirana said the course was timely. "Currently my research is in the quality of Data in the HIS-2 because this data in the HIS-2 is data that the Minister for Health is actually using for purposes of quantification of medicine and programming planning but quite often we have so many data calls to these public facilities and that is coming through but the quality aspect of that data sometimes is not taken care of, so, being at a level where we are generating some of this data and making some analysis on this data, this course kind of helped me on how to go about assessing the quality of this data "
The government of Uganda is instituting digital reporting systems for all Health Centre III and upwards. For Balibuza, "at my facility, we have already received like IT gadgets and we are going to have an system that integrates care for patients, this course actually would make us, be in position to carry on because now this is the era we are going in and there is no going back."
Kibuuka JohnMathew, a Computer Scientist and Data Manager at Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital and participant commended the tutors for the "good job"
Some attendees have even expressed their eagerness, recounting how they once anticipated its start while browsing the website. Ms. Irene Wanyana, a Course Coordinator, extended warm congratulations to the participants on successfully completing this course, commending their dedication and enthusiasm throughout the learning journey.
Dr. Vincent Michael Kiberu, a seasoned expert in Health Informatics and Telemedicine, with training from the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, noted that when he, along with Professor Nazarius Mbona and others, developed this short course alongside the Masters in Health Informatics (MHI) four years ago, they could not have foreseen its profound influence on participants' professional paths and career opportunities.
"There are certain practices we need to pick up and bring into the MHI because first to me, you guys have been an interesting class, I love the interaction, you knew what you wanted. I am sure we've either met your expectations or even offered much more than you expected, and that one makes us happy," said Dr. Kiberu
Dr. Kiberu expresses his delight in a multidisciplinary team of participants ranging from medical, monitoring, biostatistics, and IT experts which he says confirms their path's significance. He appreciated feedback from the participants emphasizing that short courses are intentionally designed to pack a punch within a limited timeframe and likens them as therapeutic ice bags, offering quick relief urging them to enroll for a Masters course since they had exhibited exceptional competence.
On her part, Ms Gladys Khamili, the School of Public Health's Principal Registrar congratulated the participants upon successful completion of the short course in health informatics and urged them apply for the Master’s program in the academic year 2024-2025.
Ms. Khamili highlighted that MHI curriculum has been revised to the flexibility of the majority potential applicants. "It has been a two-year full-time program but there is a new curricular that is going to National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) for approval which is in a phased manner that requires you will attend for two weeks, you go back for two weeks like that then come back and do exams and the semester is done. Once this is approved, there is no excuse whatsoever why you should not apply for the Master of Health Informatics come the next time that is in February 2024."
Meanwhile, Meanwhile, the grandfather of the Master of Health Informatics, Professor Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye, and one of the facilitators in his remarks, described the participants as “super heroes” and urged them to join the program and become experts.
"One of the things which excite teachers is not about the money. The most exciting thing about teachers is when you have products and these products are doing their work excellently. It's great like when you work on patient and the patient recovers, you feel very happy.
I feel very excited because of this program, we’ve been running master’s in public health Informatics from 2018. We have a number of people who are running different systems in the country and beyond and we are so grateful to God for that. We want you to do this program and become experts, either you join us or you go out there and you make different programs for different universities and your different institutions, we want our country to be in a much, much better place," Prof. Nazarius Tumwesigye said.
By Davidson Ndyabahika