I know what one might be thinking while reading this; that Nigeria hasn’t gotten to that level yet. But the fact is that what is involved is not much as it relates to cost and technology. Hospitals can actually do more in terms of the speed at which patients are attended to with digital medical records in Nigeria.
If you have watched some of these Hollywood movies with a hospital setting, you will be amazed at how much telecommunication has transformed the health sector. In nations like the United Kingdom, U.S, Australia, and the rest, this is already a norm for most hospitals. Not trying to compare these countries to Nigeria though, but it can be done. Just that the intention needs to be set.
What Using Digital Medical Records in Nigeria entails?
1. Building a Database Software/Application and Hosting it
Building software that can help you to manage complex databases has never been much simpler as it is today. What might pose a little challenge will be the hosting of such software with a server with some reputation. But the overall cost of hosting is not much in many servers, compared to the role that using digital medical records in Nigeria will play in saving patient’s lives.
2. Collaboration With the Telecommunication Industries
The telecommunication industry in Nigeria is one of the most highly advanced sectors. This is mainly because it is owned by private companies, and all liabilities are the responsibility of the investors. There are about 4 highly functional telecom companies in Nigeria; Globacom (GLO), MTN, AIRTEL, and ETISALAT.
All these companies mentioned above are doing a great job. If the dream of using digital medical records in Nigeria can be achieved, then we must not rely on the government to achieve this. It needs direct collaboration with these private telecom companies, or even a new one, with a sole focus on the health industry.
3. Indoctrinating Health Workers in Nigeria
This will not be very difficult to do. Our health workers are very smart people, and can easily get along with any changing trends within the hospital.
Also, medical and health science students should be trained in-line with this. Also, this won’t be a big deal, as most students in Nigeria are already comfortable with using telecom devices.
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4. Integration into Every Hospital in the Federation
This is where a major problem could come in. Many private hospitals may not have the resources to provide the available devices like computers in their various offices for easy access to the database. But what is not a challenge in Nigeria is for a health worker in Nigeria to own a good mobile phone, most of them already do.
And such database software, when made compatible with mobile phones solves the problem of providing computers in every office in the hospital.
5. Patients’ Registrations
Almost every Nigerian adult own either a bank account or a National Identification Number. So it is very simple to create a folder for Nigerians who already have a Bank Verification Number or National Identification Number and adding the files to the database.
Also, a file could be created for newborn babies and uploaded to the database. For the rest of the Nigerians, who neither have a BVN, an NIN, or who are not newborns, their folders could be uploaded to the database, whenever they visit the hospital.
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6. A Strong Security System to Protect Patient’s Information
A password unique for every licensed doctor who has an account with the database should be very necessary. This is to ensure that the patient’s folders are still as secured as they should be in the hospitals.
7. Constant Updating of Patient’s Information
Just like the older method of keeping patient’s information using hardware folders. The patient’s information will be constantly updated to the database.
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Advantages of Using Digital Medical Records in Nigeria
1. Efficient Emergency Response
Assuming a health worker witnesses an emergency health situation anywhere not close to a hospital, the next logical step after resuscitation of the patient is to look send the patient to the closest hospital. But if such a patient is in such a situation that he/she could pass out if a drug is not given, then finding a nearby pharmacy store to find such drugs becomes the option.
With access to the database containing this patient’s information, the health worker can easily get an overview of the patient’s past medical history, allergy history, before administering the drugs.
Same goes for emergency situations in hospital settings.
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2. Saves Time Spent on Finding Patients Folders
Another advantage is that it will save nurses the stress of looking for patient’s folders. Any physician attending to a patient can easily access their history a click away from on their mobile devices during ward rounds.
The same goes for clinics, the nurses in-charge of patient’s folders can be assigned to other more important roles. Patients and their attending physicians will spend less time in hospitals, and everybody wins.
3. Creates More Office Space in Hospitals
Folders take lots of office space in hospitals. It will be a good thing if such spaces are used for more important things like creating more offices for physicians who may not have one. Overall, this will reduce clinic hours, and also the time patients spend in hospitals.
4. Patients’ Privacy are Better Protected
If you have been to Nigerian hospitals, especially public ones, you will find that patient’s folders are almost everywhere; in the wards, in the clinics, and anywhere possible.
It’s no one’s fault as it makes it easier for attending physicians to find the information they need in treating their patients.
But these folders are also at a higher risk of being viewed by other patients or anyone within the hospital than they are, if they are password protected.
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5. Saves Resources
These papers used in documenting patients’ information are made from trees. They are also statistically more expensive than building a database. A lot will be saved if digital medical records are used in Nigeria.
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6. Easy Researches
This is for the benefit of medical students and physicians who may need some medical information to conduct researches. Using digital medical records in Nigeria could do a lot for them as they could do such from the comfort of their homes and offices.
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7. Could Save More Lives
There are many claims that the doctor’s handwriting kills hundreds to thousands of patients yearly. Most of the deaths are associated with misinterpretation of the drugs prescribed. Using digital medical records in Nigeria will completely eliminate this error, and maybe save more lives.
Also, it helps every physician to be more accountable for the information they write in the patient’s folders. Since with this idea, every physician will have a unique passcode to the database, and all activities could be monitored through the database log.
Hospitals in Nigeria could do more by using digital medical records in recording and accessing patient’s information. The current system of using papers for documentation is not as effective as it should be in many hospitals. If you are in a position of authority in the health sector, and you come by this post, it is your duty to implement this.