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07 Jan 2016

How Government can defy the critics for rapid, effective healthcare services

Robert Janssen Director of Direct Sales Operations at Ricoh SA

Electronic patient records will help government reform and revitalise public healthcare

According to government’s website South Africa’s national healthcare system is being reformed and revitalised. And it is now, as change is underway, that government could consider the efficiencies of electronic patient records.

Government’s reformation and revitalisation process comprises five key areas, namely:

• Improving infrastructure
• Planning, developing and managing human resources
• Ensuring quality of care at PHC institutions
• Re-engineering PHC
• Reducing the cost of healthcare

Why? Because the public health system is not efficient enough at coping with the numbers of patients it must face.

An electronic health record system can help government achieve three of those objectives:

• Planning, developing and managing human resources
• Ensuring quality of care at PHC institutions
• Reducing the cost of healthcare

Electronic health records are just that – hospitals use electronic records instead of reams of paper. That extends all the form admissions, when patients must capture their details into hospital administration systems, to doctor examinations and eventually to discharge forms. The records system collects all these forms together digitally.

And the benefits are wide ranging.

• Patients complete forms only once, only updating them during future visits, no matter which hospital they visit
• Forms are captured digitally and available to any departments, doctors or other professionals immediately
• Patient information is no longer out-dated and always current
• End-to-end patient record management
• Additional information generated during a patient’s stay is immediately and electronically appended to their records
• Reduced administrative personnel burden
• Patients move through the care process quicker and more efficiently, with personal attention focusing on care instead of administration, because doctors can make more informed decisions quicker
• Release floor space previously reserved for records storage
• Reduce document related costs
• Improve productivity
• Secure digital archives
• Gain real-time, multi-user access to patient records
• Acquire a platform to feed easy analysis and reporting

But how can government achieve these benefits? Now is the time for government to implement an electronic patient record system because it is already overhauling the public healthcare system. And it can begin by following these four steps:

 
• Conduct a detailed analysis of medical record processes to profile all records issues
• Consult with key medical, management and administrative personnel to scope the project
• Assess existing technology platforms (to capitalise on existing infrastructure and provide a future integration roadmap)
• Determine options for easy, quick, and tight integration of electronic records that capitalise on existing systems and infrastructure

Change brings disruption, which hampers healthcare service delivery, so it is sensible to disrupt as little as possible. And by striking now, government ensures it creates only the new infrastructure it actually needs to bring efficient healthcare services to as many citizens as possible.

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