Published in The Observer on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 19:06. Written by Moses Talemwa.
The days when one went to see a doctor and was met by a white-gowned doctor, with a stethoscope around his neck, a notebook and pen are on their way out, thanks to a decision by International Hospital Kampala (IHK) to embrace computer technology.
While the white gown and stethoscope are still in, the pen and notebook are now making way for computers. The hospital has introduced computerized smart cards that will see patients on its medical insurance scheme access their medical history at any of its 120 affiliate clinics. According to IHK Chief Executive Officer Kevin Duffy, every doctor’s office is now fitted with a networked computer on which they will be required to type their medical notes, ending the decades-old practice of writing on notepads.
“Even a lab request for a test will be fed into the system and the patient will just produce their card which has these details. Once the examination is done, the results will be fed into the system, so the doctor at the other end can respond and offer treatment quickly,” Duffy says. He adds that the system intends to cut back on the voluminous paperwork, treatment time and also improve hospital administration.
“Apart from shortening the treating time, one will now be able to determine better the optimum cost of primary healthcare, as well as control whether the treatment offered is appropriate,” Duffy adds.
Under the new system, which is based on biometrics, doctor or patient will only be able to access their medical history over the last 10 visits to hospital through a live fingerprint. “What this means is that the patient’s details are confidential, secure but easily accessible in a shorter time than previously,” Dr Ian Clarke, the IHK chairman, explains.
A patient is required to present his or her card, which when placed in a fingerprint reader will be used to register the member’s fingerprints at the initial visit and match it to the member’s benefits at any point of service, say laboratory, pharmacy and doctor’s office. Clarke explains that under this system, the patient is unable to obtain treatment on the health insurance scheme unless their fingerprints match with what is saved in the system.
The new card system comes through SMART Applications International Ltd, a Kenyan firm that is piloting the solution in Uganda. According to its Managing Director, Pauline Muriuki, IHK has exclusive rights to the card system for one year, but she says several other hospitals have already expressed interest in it.
Dr Muhame Rugambwa, the director of Medical Services at IHK, says this new measure takes the doctor-patient environment into a new era. “In the future I expect to see hospitals with a wireless connection where a doctor does his ward rounds with a tablet computer, keys in his medical notes and they are available on the system for other doctors to consult and advise accordingly; it’s the future of medical practice,” he says.