Many people often wonder what the complex field of health systems entails. You have probably asked yourself the same question too. In seeking the answer to this question, health systems specialist Dr. Grace Ikahu Muchangi talked to fellow health systems specialists and answers key pertinent questions to demystify health systems.
Definition of Health Systems
A complex subject
Agreed that health systems is indeed a complex subject that involves a myriad of diverse health professional experiences that are coordinated together to make the healthcare delivery system a complete success in terms of quality of care, effective, efficient, safe and affordable healthcare in all facets of organizations, and institutions.
Delivering Health services
According to Paulus w.s. Buluma, a health care system is the consolidation of the people, institutions, and resources put together in an organized way to deliver health to the targeted group of people.
Ramana Gandham says that health systems helps to deliver services efficiently (best value for monies spent) and ensures equity (poor and underserved as well as diseases that disproportionately affect the poor do get focus)
According to Eric Vanpraag, health systems and its strengthening is “everybody’s responsibility” from experts to laymen covering all kinds of expertise as it all ends up in better health, hence listening, building bridges, explaining. The opponent of a health system specialist is the silo-driven health interventionalist.
Guiding Principles of Health Systems
Experts Richard Juma Otieno Otwo, Ramana Gandham, and Paulus w.s. Buluma advise that successful health systems deliver health services in an organized and coordinated way to ensure that the services are effective, efficient, safe, equitable, affordable, of the right quality, and it should be delivered to the intended targeted population.
Health systems pillars
Richard Juma Otieno Otwo and Collins Nzuya identify pillars that summarize the roles and responsibilities of health systems specialists. They include: 1. Leadership and governance 2. Service delivery 3. Human resource for health 4. Health information & Equipment 5. The health financing, and 6. Access to essential medicines.
These pillars are based on the six ‘building blocks’ identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as being the essential components of health systems (World Health Organization, 2007).
What does a Health Systems Specialist do?
Jarl Chabot says a Health System Specialist (HSS) looks / analysis the various services that TOGETHER provide decent care to the people, like the provision and distribution of medicines, the number and training of health personnel, the information systems needed to make decisions, and the funding and financing of the services that are to be provided. Overall it is the Governance and the Decisions by the health authorities at the various levels of the health pyramid in the country that define the priorities and the choices that will be made and that will impact the life or death of ordinary people. It takes MODESTY to be a professional health systems specialist.
According to Richard Juma Otieno Otwo, health systems specialists work in government departments, public and private hospitals, private clinics, and other health care facilities in the administration and coordination of the healthcare programs and services.
Specifically, as to what the job of a health systems specialist is, this is what other specialists had to say:
Health System Specialists are individuals who are responsible for laying the foundational framework of the health systems/hospital systems in line with patient’s /hospital needs and community needs, and should cover patient’s details and data from entry into a health facility up to treatment and follow-up if possible.
A health system specialist is; an administrator who works for healthcare facilities by coordinating the delivery of healthcare programs and services;
- Developing and evaluating healthcare plans that deliver healthcare appropriately and effectively, facilitates prevention initiatives, and advises on healthcare policies, model of care and propositions
- Working together with healthcare workers, government departments, and communities on the development and implementation of health systems.
- Incorporating research findings and data reasoning in the health systems programs.
- Ensuring quality of healthcare services and distribution methods, facilitating mediation when required.
- Conducting healthcare education and preventative care programs.
Health systems specialists are involved in developing new plans to deliver healthcare effectively and appropriately;
- Handling health management services including preparing and delivering studies, writing reports,
- Coordinating program operations and helping in implementing programs in an organization or a facility.
- Advising on planned policies and proposals for developmental projects in health;
- Conducting ongoing project and projects evaluation of the quality of care and delivery methods;
- Providing enhanced expertise advice on addressing problems facing the healthcare systems and facilitating interventions when required.
- Assess health services, determining needs and developing healthcare management plans and programs.
A health system specialist is involved with organizing people, institutions, and resources to ensure efficient and effective delivery of health care services and programs to meet the health needs of a target population.
Health systems specialists are planners who advise on how health services and programs can be designed to effectively meet health goals at a global, national and sub national level.
Advise on health policy and strategy development based on their understanding of the needs of the population.
Advice on the appropriate design of interventions.
Give recommend the appropriate mix of inputs and investments needed for the achievement of expected health outcomes.
What does it take to be a health systems specialist?
This is what the experts had to say:
- A good health planner and policy maker
- A good collaborator with other health systems actors
Health systems specialist should understands the full value chain of health system and should be well placed to suggest mid-course corrections and innovations in the system to optimize outcomes.
A health systems specialist should have good knowledge/understanding of best practices in health system management and health regulations.
Should have diverse experiences in administration and coordination of healthcare programs and services.
A health systems specialist needs to have a good understanding of the basics of public health including interpretation of population statistics
- Understanding of health systems building blocks.
- They need to have a broad understanding of the interplay between health and other sectors and consequently multi-sectoral approaches to health programming.
Besides academic qualifications in healthcare management, It takes extensive experience in coordinating healthcare programs, expertise in optimized health services and quality patient care, to be a successful health systems specialist.
It takes: being on the ground, in the field, ears and eyes open and usually mouth closed, to be a good health systems specialist
Desirable qualifications and skills for A Health Systems Specialist
- Bachelor’s degree in a health-related field preferably in Healthcare/health Systems Management and Development, Health systems Administration
- Expertise in administration
- Administration skills
- Holder of a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or similar.
- Experience in research and data analysis.
- Good communication, leadership, and a team player.
- Excellent analytical, organizational, and time management skills.
- Commitment to accuracy and attention to detail.
- Strong computer skills.
Major in health informatics/healthcare informatics
- A postgraduate degree in health is an added advantage
- More than 5 years of experience in a health care delivery field.
- Organizational skills
- Analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Leadership skills
- Project Management skills.