Integration & Interoperability with DHIS2
DHIS2 supports integration of different data sources and software applications into a unified information management system, as well as interoperability based on open standards
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Overview: Integration & interoperability with DHIS2
The digital health ecosystem includes a diverse selection of systems and tools for collecting, storing, and using data. In many cases, these systems have their own data structures and design frameworks, and as a result much of the information collected using them is stored in silos. This makes it challenging for Ministries of Health and other organizations to analyze their data across programs and sectors, hampering their ability to make data-driven decisions. Two related concepts that can help address this challenge are integration — the process of unifying multiple different information systems so that they function as one — and interoperability — alignment between independent systems so that they can share data with each other.
HISP UiO supports integration and interoperability as practices that can help countries achieve their goals of strengthening health information systems through more effective data use. As such, we have designed DHIS2 as a platform that can receive and host data from different sources and share data with other systems and reporting mechanisms. This has led to the adoption of DHIS2 as a data warehouse in a number of countries, as well as purpose-driven integrations between DHIS2 and logistics, lab, population and other information systems. The HISP network also develops country capacity for designing and implementing system integrations, and participates in a number of initiatives aimed at increasing interoperability through development and support of global standards.
On this page, you can find information on integration and interoperability with DHIS2, including common use cases, available tools, and real-world examples. For more guidance on planning and carrying out integration projects, see the Integration Concepts section of the DHIS2 Implementation Guide.
The HISP principles: Designing based on local contexts, needs, benefits and goals
Much of the information on this page and in the DHIS2 documentation deals with how DHIS2 supports integration and interoperability from a technical perspective. However, when approaching these topics in the real world, it is important to consider why integration might be appropriate in a given situation, and whether the potential benefits it could bring outweigh the costs involved, especially given the complexity of initial integration work and the need for maintenance over time.
The HISP approach to DHIS2 integration and interoperability is based on the following principles:
- Support country goals: In keeping with our 25+ year historical mission, our guiding principle is to act in solidarity with our country partners, and aid them in achieving their goals.
- Identify value to users: Integration projects should provide a clearly identified value to the end users / system owners, who should also be consulted in order to determine what this value is.
- Evaluate costs vs. benefits: The value provided has to be balanced against cost. Interoperability tends to be expensive to implement, both in terms of initial integration work and long term operation and maintenance.
- Focus on data use, not software: It is more productive to start interoperability projects as internal discussions between departments, programs and MoH sections to determine what data would be useful to exchange, rather than as technical discussions on which software systems could be linked with each other.
- Design systems locally: System architecture should ideally be done in country. HISP UiO supports increasing the capacity for MoH and others to design, build and maintain their own systems based on the local context, rather than importing abstract designs from external sources.
- Engage in global collaboration: HISP supports and participates in OpenHIE and other fora focused on interoperability and integration, which provide valuable discussions on new ideas, standards and approaches.
Common DHIS2 integration use cases
There are several reasons for integrating DHIS2 with other software systems, including combining data from various sources — such as health statistics, logistics or lab data, human resources information — into one platform for joint analysis, combining multiple DHIS2 systems together, or incorporating data into a DHIS2 HMIS from external collection tools. Some common DHIS2 integration use cases include:
Multiple DHIS2 systems
Most countries have more than one DHIS2 instance, such as for different health programs. Integrating these can include synchronization of organisation units and data elements across systems, exchange of aggregate data, pushing Tracker data into aggregate systems, and exchange of patient data.
DHIS2 is often used as an integrated data warehouse, combining data from various sources, such as health, logistics, population and human resource data to facilitate cross-cutting analytics.
DHIS2 can be used for logistics as an end-user stock data capture and integrated with an upstream eLMIS system for end-to-end supply chain management and to support bottleneck analysis.
Integration with laboratory systems facilitates the exchange of patient testing data to support disease surveillance and other programs.
The use of DHIS2 as an Education Management Information System (EMIS) is growing, and education data can be combined with health program data to support immunization campaigns and other activities.
Large regional and international organizations such as PEPFAR, WAHO, and CARPHA have integrated DHIS2 systems to allow for regional monitoring and analysis.
Linking data collection tools
A large variety of digital data collection tools can be integrated with DHIS2 so that the data they capture flows into the national HMIS. The list on this page includes some common examples.
Core DHIS2 technical support for interoperability
Sustaining robust and fully open interoperability support for the DHIS2 platform is a priority for HISP UiO. DHIS2 is designed to facilitate interoperability on an architectural level, and the HISP network has developed guidance and tools to support integration with DHIS2, with additional tools in development.
DHIS2 provides robust APIs that are fully open and well documented, encouraging both development of external applications on top of DHIS2 and integration with other tools. This is a foundational building block, and not common in other software platforms, where APIs are frequently limited or blocked by paywalls.
Flexible data model
The DHIS2 data model allows heterogeneous identification / coding schemes, which lets implementers assign codes to objects in DHIS2 that correspond with codes in other systems to support data and metadata matching.
Standardized metadata packages
HISP UiO has collaborated with WHO and other partners to develop and publish standardized metadata packages that include dataset definitions, indicators, and dashboards that are based on shared, open standards.
DHIS2 App Hub
With the App Hub, DHIS2 provides a platform for independent developers to share custom applications that can be downloaded and installed on any DHIS2 system. Many of these apps support integration and data exchange.
DHIS2 to FHIR bundle
Shows how DHIS2 resources, such as organisation units, can be converted to FHIR bundles before being uploaded to a FHIR server like HAPI FHIR.
External systems that support integration with DHIS2
A large number of software systems and platforms support integration with DHIS2. Below, you can find a non-exhaustive list that is divided into integration middleware, generic systems and platforms, and domain-specific systems. More information about these systems can be found via the links to their websites included below and in the Digital Square Global Goods Guidebook.
A selection of middleware systems are available to facilitate integration with DHIS2:
General systems & platforms
Several general-purpose systems and platforms can be integrated with DHIS2:
The following list includes examples of domain-specific systems and applications that have been integrated with DHIS2:
Impact stories: Providing value to in-country users through integration
Read the stories below for examples of how successful integration between DHIS2 and other systems has provided value to users and governments by facilitating data use and analysis.
Discuss integration and interoperability with DHIS2 experts
The DHIS2 Community of Practice (CoP) is the primary forum for DHIS2 discussion and support. If questions or challenges arise when integrating DHIS2 with other software systems, the CoP is a great place to ask questions and get support from the international community of DHIS2 experts, including members of the core DHIS2 interoperability team. Join the discussion about DHIS2 integration and interoperability on the CoP.
Collaboration on interoperability and global standards
HISP UiO actively works towards the goal of greater DHIS2 interoperability to support a diverse ecosystem of digital health tools. We are members of the Health Management Information System (HMIS) community of OpenHIE, which was organized to lead the development and deployment of open-source technologies to better manage health information and promote better health outcomes. We are also active members of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), where we have participated in standards committees, and have been directly involved in authoring a number of IHE profiles related to exchange of health data. HISP UiO also collaborates with the World Health Organization on the WHO Health Data Toolkit, which aims to strengthen data use on a national and international level through promotion of best practices and global standards.
Through engagement with these organizations and others we continue to work toward developing and disseminating global standards, such as FHIR. The DHIS2 team also collaborates with counterparts from other health information systems and applications to develop generic approaches for integration across platforms. In addition, the team publishes DHIS2-compatible code lists of common terminology that are aligned with SNOMED GPS, LOINC, ICD-10 and other common standards.