Panel Presentation at the Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare

Carl Leitner, iHRIS developer, presented a paper and participated in a panel at the first international Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare (WISH) on April 11 in Atlanta, GA. The workshop brought together over 150 international researchers and practitioners from Computer Science and Health/Medical informatics fields and was part of the larger weeklong SIG-CHI conference. The paper, Strengthening HIS in Low-Resource Settings, by Carl Leitner and Carol Bales, characterized challenges of implementing health information systems (HIS) in low-resource settings and outlined successful implementation strategies.

Carl’s panel, Addressing Disparities in Health Information Technology: The Context of Low-Resource Settings, included the following speakers:

  • Chris Seebregts, moderator, South African Medical Research Council
  • Karen Cheng, Charles Drew University
  • Carl Leitner, IntraHealth International
  • Cornie Scheffer, Stellenbosch University

After giving a short presentation on the paper, the panelists engaged in an active discussion on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) challenges that often exist in low-resource environments. Carl highlighted the need for health informatics training, for example via health information building blocks (HIBBs), and recommended steps countries can take to alleviate ICT burdens that arise when introducing HIS to new environments and unfamiliar staff.

Carl drew context from the human resources information systems (HRIS) strengthening work of the USAID-funded and IntraHealth-led projects, including the Capacity Project, its Associate Awards, and the global follow-on CapacityPlus. He gave examples of infrastructure challenges faced when deploying a national HRIS. He also discussed ways technology is typically misused, such as using HRIS-designated computers for checking email or downloading inappropriate files that may cause viruses. To address these issues, Carl recommended an appliance model, such as the iHRIS Appliance, as an alternative. An appliance is an inexpensive, low-maintenance computer that has no monitor or keyboard, so is less likely to be used for personal reasons. Appliances minimize the ICT burden by making software easy to learn and use.  They can be used to roll HIS out to districts and regions, providing access to an HIS even in the case of limited connectivity to a central office.

Carl also talked about the importance of customizable software. He explained the IntraHealth projects’ process of reviewing a country’s existing paper-based HR processes and adapting them for HRIS software such as the Open Source iHRIS software.

Carl appreciated that the workshop represented both clinical and public health perspectives and offered opportunities for networking. He had several side conversations about a new concept being led by the American Medical Informatics Association – the development of HIBBs. He was involved in several discussions about the structure and format of HIBBs modules. As a result, a Google discussion group was formed to continue collaboration.

To learn more about the workshop, visit