Lessons learned from the development and implementation of an electronic paediatric emergency and acute care database in Lilongwe, Malawi

BMJ Glob Health. 2020 Jul;5(7):e002410. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002410.


As the field of global child health increasingly focuses on inpatient and emergency care, there is broad recognition of the need for comprehensive, accurate data to guide decision-making at both patient and system levels. Limited financial and human resources present barriers to reliable and detailed clinical documentation at hospitals in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) is a tertiary referral hospital in Malawi where the paediatric ward admits up to 3000 children per month. To improve availability of robust inpatient data, we collaboratively designed an acute care database on behalf of PACHIMAKE, a consortium of Malawi and US-based institutions formed to improve paediatric care at KCH. We assessed the existing health information systems at KCH, reviewed quality care metrics, engaged clinical providers and interviewed local stakeholders who would directly use the database or be involved in its collection. Based on the information gathered, we developed electronic forms collecting data at admission, follow-up and discharge for children admitted to the KCH paediatric wards. The forms record demographic information, basic medical history, clinical condition and pre-referral management; track diagnostic processes, including laboratory studies, imaging modalities and consults; and document the final diagnoses and disposition obtained from clinical files and corroborated through review of existing admission and death registries. Our experience with the creation of this database underscores the importance of fully assessing existing health information systems and involving all stakeholders early in the planning process to ensure meaningful and sustainable implementation.

Keywords: health policies and all other topics; paediatrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Electronics*
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Humans
  • Malawi