Background: The Kenyan government, working with international partners and local organizations, has developed an eHealth strategy, specified standards, and guidelines for electronic health record adoption in public hospitals and implemented two major health information technology projects: District Health Information Software Version 2, for collating national health care indicators and a rollout of the KenyaEMR and International Quality Care Health Management Information Systems, for managing 600 HIV clinics across the country. Following these projects, a modified version of the Open Medical Record System electronic health record was specified and developed to fulfill the clinical and administrative requirements of health care facilities operated by devolved counties in Kenya and to automate the process of collating health care indicators and entering them into the District Health Information Software Version 2 system.
Objective: We aimed to present a descriptive case study of the implementation of an open source electronic health record system in public health care facilities in Kenya.
Methods: We conducted a landscape review of existing literature concerning eHealth policies and electronic health record development in Kenya. Following initial discussions with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and implementing partners, we conducted a series of visits to implementing sites to conduct semistructured individual interviews and group discussions with stakeholders to produce a historical case study of the implementation.
Results: This case study describes how consultants based in Kenya, working with developers in India and project stakeholders, implemented the new system into several public hospitals in a county in rural Kenya. The implementation process included upgrading the hospital information technology infrastructure, training users, and attempting to garner administrative and clinical buy-in for the adoption of the system. The initial deployment was ultimately scaled back due to a complex mix of sociotechnical and administrative issues. Learning from these early challenges, the system is now being redesigned and prepared for deployment in 6 new counties across Kenya.
Conclusions: Implementing electronic health record systems is a challenging process in high-income settings. In low-income settings, such as Kenya, open source software may offer some respite from the high costs of software licensing, but the familiar challenges of clinical and administration buy-in, the need to adequately train users, and the need for the provision of ongoing technical support are common across the North-South divide. Strategies such as creating local support teams, using local development resources, ensuring end-user buy-in, and rolling out in smaller facilities before larger hospitals are being incorporated into the project. These are positive developments to help maintain momentum as the project continues. Further integration with existing open source communities could help ongoing development and implementations of the project. We hope this case study will provide some lessons and guidance for other challenging implementations of electronic health record systems as they continue across Africa.