12.3. From paper to electronic form - Lessons learned

When introducing an electronic health information system the system being replaced is often paper based reporting. The process of migrating to electronic data capture and analysis has some challenges. The following sections suggest best practises on how to overcome these.

12.3.1. Identify self-contained data elements

Typically the design of a DHIS2 data set is based on some requirements from a paper form that is already in use. The logic of paper forms are not the same as the data element and data set model of DHIS, e.g. often a field in a tabular paper form is described both by column headings and text on each row, and sometimes also with some introductory table heading that provides more context. In the database this is captured for one atomic data element with no reference to a position in a visual table format so it is important to make sure the data element with the optional data element categories capture the full meaning of each individual field in the paper form.

12.3.2. Leave calculations and repetitions to the computer - capture raw data only

Another important thing to have in mind while designing data sets is that the data set and the corresponding data entry form (which is a data set with layout) is a data collection tool and not a report or analysis tool. There are other far more sophisticated tools for data output and reporting in DHIS2 than the data entry forms. Paper forms are often designed with both data collection and reporting in mind and therefore you might see things such as cumulative values (in addition to the monthly values), repetition of annual data (the same population data reported every month) or even indicator values such as coverage rates in the same form as the monthly raw data. When you store the raw data in the DHIS2 database every month and have all the processing power you need within the computerised tool, there is no need (in fact it would be wrong and most likely cause inconsistency) to register manually calculated values such as the ones mentioned above. You only want to capture the raw data in your data sets/forms and leave the calculations to the computer, and presentation of such values to the reporting tools in DHIS. Through the functionality of data set reports all tabular section forms will automatically get extra columns at the far right providing subtotal and total values for each row (data element).