Improving the quality of health information: a qualitative assessment of data management and reporting systems in Botswana

Health Res Policy Syst. 2014 Jan 30:12:7. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-12-7.


Background: Ensuring that data collected through national health information systems are of sufficient quality for meaningful interpretation is a challenge in many resource-limited countries. An assessment was conducted to identify strengths and weaknesses of the health data management and reporting systems that capture and transfer routine monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data in Botswana.

Methods: This was a descriptive, qualitative assessment. In-depth interviews were conducted at the national (n = 27), district (n = 31), and facility/community (n = 71) levels to assess i) M&E structures, functions, and capabilities; ii) indicator definitions and reporting guidelines; iii) data collection forms and tools; iv) data management processes; and v) links with the national reporting system. A framework analysis was conducted using ATLAS.ti v6.1.

Results: Health programs generally had standardized data collection and reporting tools and defined personnel for M&E responsibilities at the national and district levels. Best practices unique to individual health programs were identified and included a variety of relatively low-resource initiatives such as attention to staffing patterns, making health data more accessible for evidence-based decision-making, developing a single source of information related to indicator definitions, data collection tools, and management processes, and utilization of supportive supervision visits to districts and facilities. Weakness included limited ownership of M&E-related duties within facilities, a lack of tertiary training programs to build M&E skills, few standard practices related to confidentiality and document storage, limited dissemination of indicator definitions, and limited functionality of electronic data management systems.

Conclusions: Addressing fundamental M&E system issues, further standardization of M&E practices, and increasing health services management responsiveness to time-sensitive information are critical to sustain progress related to health service delivery in Botswana. In addition to high-resource initiatives, such as investments in electronic medical record systems and tertiary training programs, there are a variety of low-resource initiatives, such as regular data quality checks, that can strengthen national health information systems. Applying best practices that are effective within one health program to data management and reporting systems of other programs is a practical approach for strengthening health informatics and improving data quality.

MeSH terms

  • Botswana
  • Data Collection / standards*
  • Health Information Systems / standards*
  • Medical Informatics / standards
  • Research Design / standards*