6th December 2016 marked the opening of the historical OpenMRS International Implementers’ conference in Uganda themed “eHealth for better outcomes: Innovating and Strengthening Systems”. The first of its kind in the country, and the most attended yet in the history of its existence. The Uganda Ministry of Health with technical support from the Makerere University School of Public Health’s Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program hosted the six-day conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
350 delegates from 25 countries from around the world attended the 2016 Implementers’ conference. These included Malawi, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, USA, Sri Lanka, China, Mozambique, Haiti, Rwanda, India, Algeria, Cameroon, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda. The Minister of Health, represented by Dr. Sarah Byakika Assistant Commissioner Planning, presided over the conference opening. In her speech, she noted that the OpenMRS and the discussions of the conference contributed to outstanding improvement in health service delivery through improved electronic health information systems. She thanked the OpenMRS community picking Uganda as a host nation and that the Ministry’s pride in hosting the conference.
The conference’s main highlights included the regular sessions, the unconference sessions where different topics were discussed concurrently in different halls; lightening talks that required the presenter to give a clear picture of how they were using OpenMRS and their milestones; demonstrations where presenters showcased how their national systems were operating; breakout sessions where delegates chose to attend the discussions of their interests in the various halls.
The participants were also given an opportunity to visit a variety of sites within Kampala that were using the system, these included; Kiruddu Hospital, Komamboga HC III, Kawala HC III, Kisugu HC III, Alive Medical Services (AMS), Kisenyi HC III and Family Hope Centre Ntinda.
OpenMRS is a software platform and a reference application, that was created in 2004, which enables users to design customized medical records system with no programming knowledge. OpenMRS is based on the principle that information should be stored as summaries that make it easy to analyse by users at all levels. The OpenMRS community is a collective effort by a network of volunteers from many different backgrounds including technology, health care, and international development.
The Uganda National eHealth Policy has electronic medical records (EMR) management as a cornerstone for improving the quality of care provided to all Ugandans. The Ministry of Health (MoH), working closely with World Health Organization (WHO), Makerere University, School of Public Health’s Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) with support from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Uganda (CDC) piloted and adopted OpenMRS in 2011 as a national EMR to manage patient records. This system was customized to Uganda and is known as the UgandaEMR. The latest version (1.11.6) caters for more robust technological features on identifying and monitoring patients like use of a fingerprint feature. METS in partnership with various Implementing Partners has carried out massive country scale-up exercises with guidance from Ministry of Health and 400 facilities countrywide are using the system.
The Assistant Commissioner Division of Health Information and Chair of the Organising committee Dr. Eddie S. Mukooyo represented the Director General Health Sciences at the closing ceremony that was held on Friday, 9th December 2016. In his closing remarks, Dr. Mukooyo gave a heartfelt appreciation to the conference sponsors, PEPFAR Uganda which includes CDC and USAID, World Health Organization (WHO), Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO), Thought Works, Google and SolDevelo; for the support, they accorded the conference.