In a reporting software system (unlike point of work), the users don't use it when they are providing services to their clients (citizens). They use them later on, periodically, to report data about their work. Intuitively we like the point of work system, but it is the reporting systems that have dominated.
Why do reporting systems dominate?
The success and dominance of dhis2, which is a reporting system, over the last 2 decades are because it understood three important aspects of technology for development. The first two have been understood well, the last one is appreciated much lesser.
1. No code > Low code >> Programming - when it comes to distribution in LMICs. It pushes the cost down significantly, reduces project risk, requires less maintenance, and drives down the need to have developers available all the time.
2. Be a platform for both local tech communities, funders, and health organizations like WHO - making it easy for governments to get done.
3. Only reporting systems are feasible and point of work systems are not.
There is criticism of dhis2 based on what it offers as a user experience (not the user interface, which certainly can improve). The lament is that dhis2 is successful because of non-technical reasons. This is not true. The user experience offered by dhis2 is a natural outcome of the design of reporting systems. The real question is why point-of-work systems haven't succeeded.
Point of work and reporting system by example
Very simply, in such a system, the user does their work, and data gets generated and is useful for other purposes like reporting. Example of point of work system - a person doing vaccination of children is the user and the system offers workflow like - register, look up child, create a new immunization schedule, check due/overdue vaccines, give vaccine dose, so on. A reporting system on the other may be of one of the following types:
- At the end of the day report the number of jabs given, the number of children who came, missed jabs
- At the end of the day report child name, age, vaccine-given, etc.
The reporting systems can be quite sophisticated and can allow for longitudinal records, but essentially the design of such a system is to report and not to use previously reported data much, at least in ways that support the workflows of the user at the point of work.
Reasons reporting systems dominate in governmental systems
1. Point of work system requires a mobile device or a personal computer for each user. On the national/sub-national scale providing so many devices/computers to the users require a very large budget. Whereas with reporting system the users can use paper at their point of work and later use a common or public device/computer to report. Such implementations do decide the frequency of reporting based on the volume of data and availability/access of common/public computers.
2. The reporting of data from paper can be done by a data entry person as well (supporting several end service providers) - if everyone cannot be trained to use a computer or workloads.
3. A user who is once familiar with dhis2 can use the same product to report some other type of data for another program. Hence such users need less training subsequently.
In short reporting systems are very cost-effective.
Point of work systems will replace reporting systems with economic growth/development
As a country/state develops and can afford to spend more on technology, the reporting systems will have to give way to point of work systems. This is because the point of work systems can deliver significantly more value to all the users and stakeholders compared to a reporting system.
1. When software is used at the point of work, the user can become more effective and efficient - supported by features and data. They can provide better services to their clients (citizens) and provide feedback to the organization to improve the processes.
2. The quality of data generated is far superior because:
- Unlike in reporting where data moves from real-world to paper, then paper to the software system, in point of work it goes in straight.
- Data entry is quite mundane work and the users lose focus when they are entering data in bulk and they make mistakes.
Unlike reporting systems like dhis2 which can be developed once and used again and again, one will require many point-of-work systems for each domain-specific use case. This is likely to further elongate the life of reporting systems as it will be competing with all different quality of point-of-work systems.
Reporting systems will give way eventually, but they have served very well and they should get their due appreciation.
Author: Vivek Singh
Published on: 22-Nov-2021