2017 – 2022
Initiated by the National Department of Health (NDoH) in 2016, the Internship and Community Service Program (ICSP) addresses the critical need for an impartial, efficient allocation system for Medical Interns and Community Service professionals in South Africa. The electronic online system, ICSP, is the result of a collaborative effort between NDoH, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Health Information Systems Program of South Africa (HISP-SA). Over a five-year period, this project has significantly transformed the allocation process, optimizing efficiency, transparency, and accessibility for healthcare professionals throughout the country.
ICSP Online transitioned the allocation process from a fully paper-based operation to an automated system; the algorithm-based allocation process, guided by agreed-upon principles and priorities, ensures fair, equitable allocation of junior healthcare professionals in the positions available, rapidly and without bias. Using the system, applicants could select up to 5 preferred facility choices and can apply with a Personal Consideration, subject to review by a panel of Medical Specialists. The project adheres to established business rules and ICSP Guidelines, promoting transparency and accountability in the allocation of junior healthcare professionals to available posts.
Prior to the introduction of the new system, there were significant challenges to allocating resources , such as processing delays, overwhelming paperwork, in turn leading to complex and difficult audits, lack of governance and related documentation, and data security issues. These impeded the National Department of Health, compounding the communication gaps with applicants due to incorrect contact information.
The introduction of the HISP-SA-built ICSP Online in 2017 revolutionized the allocation process, effectively eliminating many of the challenges. An equipped ICSP call centre provided immediate support, and the online application platform streamlined the process, allowing for smoother, more rapid, and equitable outcomes. A complex mathematical algorithm ensured fair and transparent applicant allocation, with over 52% securing one of their top five preferred facility choices, and in 2022 79% of applicants were placed somewhere in their top 5 choices. With an annual allocations cycle averaging 10,500 applicants across 17 professional fields, extending crucial health services to rural and underserved communities.
The ICSP Helpdesk played a pivotal role, operating as a call centre and information site for immediate assistance to all. Applicants could log tickets, receiving prompt resolution of queries and concerns. This essential component ensured a seamless experience for National and Provincial coordinators, applicants, and other users throughout the program.
We are proud to have been part of a 5-year collaboration with the National Department of Health (NDOH) to build an unrivalled sophisticated, auditable system to place Interns and Community Service Professionals equitably. The success of the allocations we supported, up to December 2022, underscores our shared commitment to using digital tools to tackle essential healthcare challenges.
We trust that the new service provider that has taken this project over from HISP will protect and build upon the foundation we have established, in continued support of the valuable junior health professionals serving South Africans.