The world needs systems for managing health financing and social protection schemes that are quick, flexible and integrated. Interoperable digital systems allow the many different actors in the social (health) protection delivery chain to exchange data with one another in real time, despite being housed in separate systems. This results in smoother experiences for beneficiaries – simpler procedures, fewer touch points, and quicker assistance – and better managed and monitored programs.
A custom-built solution for community health insurance
openIMIS has its origins in the Insurance Management Information System (IMIS), a custom-made solution for managing district-based community health funds in Tanzania. Since its development in 2012, the software has grown organically and has demonstrated potential for easy adaptation to different types of health financing mechanisms and social protection schemes.
The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) supported the development of the software as a simple, user-friendly tool for managing the business processes associated with community health funds in Tanzania. Technical expertise was provided by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Microinsurance Academy and Exact Software. The software quickly proved its ability to manage complex insurance processes by bringing together beneficiary, provider and payer data into a single platform.
In 2014, a mutual health insurance scheme in Cameroon adapted the software for its business processes. A year later, German Development Cooperation (GDC) supported its customization for Nepal’s national health insurance scheme.
The openIMIS Initiative is born
The openIMIS Initiative was established in 2016, with support from GDC and SDC, to transform IMIS from a stand-alone digital solution to an integrated and modular open source software, supported by a community of developers and users. The aim was to make the software available to many more countries working to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
SDC licensed IMIS as open source software under the AGPL3 license, thereby ensuring that the software could be used and adapted free of charge. The source code for openIMIS was published in early 2018 on GitHub. The openIMIS developer and implementer communities were established shortly thereafter.
Modular architecture transformation and new use cases
In 2019 teams of software developers began transforming openIMIS to a new modular architecture, which allows users to pick and choose the functionalities they wish to use. Individual modules – beneficiary management, benefits administration, and data analysis – can be adapted to the specific needs of different use cases. In 2020 openIMIS was used to manage a cash transfer scheme in The Gambia. Since this time openIMIS has been used to administer both health financing and social protection schemes.