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Journal article assesses the costs and savings of introducing electronic immunization registries

By Celina Kareiva, Senior Communications Associate, BID Initiative

Aug 7, 2020

Posted in , ,

Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp. A patient uses her cellphone at the Usa River Health Center in Tanzania.

As COVID-19 squeezes health systems, clinics and hospitals around the world are finding themselves strained by the global pandemic. Digital and data systems can help countries respond to these evolving health trends and demands. A recent journal article about the BID Initiative, published in the Pan African Medical Journal, assesses the incremental costs of implementing electronic immunization registries (EIRs) in Tanzania and Zambia. Using data from both countries, BID conducted a micro-costing study about the service delivery and logistical costs of EIRs in a sample of health facilities and compared it against a sample without the system. BID also analyzed how costs varied for health facilities with different patient volumes and across different geographies (rural vs. urban settings).

Understanding the costs of EIRs can help other countries make a more informed decision about whether and how best to introduce digital systems. These studies also help to understand the long-term costs associated with maintaining EIRs, a factor that can sometimes be overlooked during the introduction of digital systems. Because very few studies to date have evaluated the costs of implementing EIRs, BID aimed to estimate the incremental costs and savings attributed to the interventions. Costs were divided into five categories for analysis: human resources, cold chain equipment, communications and office supplies, facility office equipment, and transport.

Study findings reveal that human resource costs were most responsible for savings. Because EIRs automate many features of data reporting, health workers spent less time delivering and reporting on immunization services. The average annual reduction in resource costs for Tanzania was estimated at $10,236 per health facility; cost savings for resources were estimated at $6,542 per district. In Zambia, reductions in resource costs were more modest. Cost savings were estimated at an average of $628 per health facility and $236 per health facility. This may be because of a number of factors, explain the study authors. For example, Zambia was newer to the system when the study was conducted, so the full benefits of the EIR may not have been realized.

The findings suggest that the time savings generated by digital tools, such as EIRs, can lead to significant cost savings. With fewer data collection and reporting burdens, health workers have more time to spend with their patients.

Read the full article in the Pan African Medical Journal here.

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