As Lesotho’s Ministry of Health prepares for an expected surge of COVID-19 cases, ICAP is providing critical support to the country’s national response by standing up a COVID data analytic and visualization platform. This platform, which includes a visual data dashboard and a mobile app to facilitate data collection from health facilities, will enable emergency response leadership to make more informed decisions on how to control the spread of COVID-19 in Lesotho.
Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, ICAP developed a suite of health informatics and data management solutions that enable Lesotho’s health officials to use clinic-reported health data to identify where high rates of sub-optimal health outcomes are occurring and to respond with targeted interventions. These data management systems aggregate data reporting across all public health facilities and more than 15 health programs into a single platform—ensuring that health officials at all levels of the health system have access to up-to-date information as they make programmatic and resource allocation decisions.
As COVID-19 spread rapidly across the northern hemisphere, Tsigereda Gadisa, MD, MPH, chief of party for the strategic information strengthening project for ICAP in Lesotho, realized that the country had a singular advantage in its fight against the pandemic—time. And every minute counted. “Instead of dedicating valuable resources to develop completely new data management systems and protocols to track COVID-19 testing, treatment, and follow-up in Lesotho, I knew that we could accelerate the national preparations for this new pandemic by leveraging the data management systems ICAP had already built for Lesotho’s HIV response and our internal expertise on data platforms and local contexts.”
Gadisa quickly pulled together her small team of experts in HIV data surveillance systems and DHIS2, an open source software commonly deployed by national governments for health-related projects, and got to work.
“I knew that we could accelerate the national preparations for this new pandemic by leveraging the data management systems ICAP had already built for Lesotho’s HIV response and our internal expertise on data platforms and local contexts.”
In just under 72 hours, ICAP staff built a suite of data collection and monitoring systems and training materials to support Lesotho’s national COVID-19 response, allowing public health officials to view outbreak patterns in real time. The COVID tracking system pulled together patient intake forms and geo-spatial data for all border posts, villages, and health facilities into easy-to-read data summary dashboards, similar in feel and function to information systems previously developed. By mirroring data entry systems that clinic workers were already familiar with, the learning curve for health workers to contribute to the new COVID monitoring system was greatly reduced—giving leaders in the public health sector rapid access to critical COVID-19 data. After a series of presentations with members of the national COVID taskforce, including several ministers and their advisors, ICAP’s system was formally adopted.
“As Lesotho works to protect its people from the novel coronavirus, one of the most important things informing our response at the national level is access to real-time data from across our public health system,” said Monaheng Maoeng, acting IT manager at the Ministry of Health, who is currently leading the technology response for COVID-19 at the systems level. “By building this data tool and dashboard, and rapidly scaling up trainings for our health workers on the ground, ICAP in Lesotho has been an invaluable partner and we are thankful for the collaboration. With this tool, Lesotho’s leaders can develop informed, evidence-based health interventions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure we deliver targeted care to those most in need.”
In addition to supervising the rapid deployment of the resources across Lesotho’s health system, the ICAP team held multiple rounds of trainings to quickly onboard key health officials in the COVID-19 response at the national, district, and facility levels. ICAP staff onboarded a small cadre of master trainers from the national and district COVID response teams, leading a one-day training for 42 health leaders from each of the country’s ten districts. Participants included physicians, data officers, environmental officers, statisticians, nurses, and representatives from community-based organizations. Each of these individuals returned to their respective organizations and trained their colleagues.
Since the tool’s development, the ICAP team has continued to provide on-call support for all health facilities and organizations providing COVID-related data to the Ministry of Health. At the time of publication, Lesotho’s Ministry of Health had announced using data analyzed through the new tool that the country had tested 2,137 people. Twelve of these people had tested positive; two of these cases had recovered. No deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded.
Ts’epang Lekhela, MBChB, MPH, an epidemiologist leading Lesotho’s surveillance of COVID-19, recognized ICAP’s contribution to the public health system of the country, saying: “Paper-based reporting defeated our efforts towards a timely response and also put pressure on limited resources. With the assistance of our IT team and through the support of ICAP, we now have an electronic reporting system which has made it easier to access and analyze data through the DHIS2. Our lives and work have been made much easier.”
A global health leader since 2003, ICAP was founded at Columbia University with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners—ministries of health, large multilaterals, health care providers, and patients—ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all. To date, ICAP has addressed major public health challenges and the needs of local health systems through 6,000 sites across more than 30 countries.