Background: Physician tracking systems are critical for health workforce planning as well as for activities to ensure quality health care - such as physician regulation, education, and emergency response. However, information on current systems for physician tracking in sub-Saharan Africa is limited. The objective of this study is to provide information on the current state of physician tracking systems in the region, highlighting emerging themes and innovative practices.
Methods: This study included a review of the literature, an online search for physician licensing systems, and a document review of publicly available physician registration forms for sub-Saharan African countries. Primary data on physician tracking activities was collected as part of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) - through two rounds over two years of annual surveys to 13 medical schools in 12 sub-Saharan countries. Two innovations were identified during two MEPI school site visits in Uganda and Ghana.
Results: Out of twelve countries, nine had existing frameworks for physician tracking through licensing requirements. Most countries collected basic demographic information: name, address, date of birth, nationality/citizenship, and training institution. Practice information was less frequently collected. The most frequently collected practice fields were specialty/degree and current title/position. Location of employment and name and sector of current employer were less frequently collected. Many medical schools are taking steps to implement graduate tracking systems. We also highlight two innovative practices: mobile technology access to physician registries in Uganda and MDNet, a public-private partnership providing free mobile-to-mobile voice and text messages to all doctors registered with the Ghana Medical Association.
Conclusion: While physician tracking systems vary widely between countries and a number of challenges remain, there appears to be increasing interest in developing these systems and many innovative developments in the area. Opportunities exist to expand these systems in a more coordinated manner that will ultimately lead to better workforce planning, implementation of the workforce, and better health.