HRIS Potential in Tanzania’s Health Workforce Planning Improvement

As a public healthcare management professional and a former intern with IntraHealth, I have had the opportunity to work with human resources information systems (HRIS). I believe an HRIS is a robust, simple and easy-to-manage tool that Tanzania can utilize for efficient healthcare workforce management.

Tanzania has a healthcare workforce deficit compared to its workforce influx, attrition, and population growth. At the same time, HIV prevalence is projected to further increase the workforce demand. With the deficit in the healthcare workforce and high burden of diseases, the country's policy and decision makers need to clearly understand the current healthcare workforce situation in order to plan for optimization and strategize interventions to improve the situation.

The Capacity Project's free and integrated Open Source human resources information system (HRIS) software is capable of capturing healthcare workforce information throughout training and employment. It can be used by healthcare authorities such as the Public Health Association, the Medical Association, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and healthcare service providers, to maintain current and accurate healthcare workforce information required for correct and efficient response to healthcare delivery challenges.

The loosely manual and scattered electronic information currently maintained by the healthcare authorities can be linked and integrated through an electronic HRIS with verified accuracy and regular updates, thus saving much needed resources that would otherwise be required to conventionally maintain the current system. Similarly, career-related information like relocations, promotions, training and remuneration can be smoothly tracked by the system, analyzed and used for planning and reporting.

An increase in training infrastructure is seen as an option toward bridging the country workforce gap. The HRIS will be useful in determining exact requirement and devising of plan to address the same. Given that training is a long-term solution, based on reliable data, short-term training programs could be devised to improve the situation. HRIS-guided decisions would extend government's health care policy reforms including private sector participation in health education provision.

Lack of linked information has resulted in significant differences in the number of health workers per capita in different areas of the country with urban areas having better staffing ratios than rural ones. This has resulted into staff ratios determination by existing infrastructure rather than actual needs thus limiting interventions through usual human resource policy means. The data-based HRIS will be a useful tool for balanced workforce deployment to meet health care needs.

- - Bakari Bakari

Bakari A. Bakari (MBA), has served as the Information Systems Manager with the Medical Stores Department, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since 1999. He is currently a Hubert Humphrey Fellow 2007/08, at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He spent six weeks as an intern with IntraHealth International Inc., Chapel Hill working with HRIS, Open Source Technologies and PDA usage in data collection.