Most hospitals and health centres in Ghana have their own identity cards and folders for identifying and attending to their patients.
A patient who visits a health facility for the first time will first report at the Out Patients Department (OPD). The patient will be directed to the revenue section, where he/she will be required to pay money to the accountant.
After paying this money, the patient goes to the records section to have a folder created on his/her behalf. The folder will be used to store the patient’s medical records. An ID card is also produced for the patient to help in identifying the patient, as well as retrieving his/her medical records upon each visit to the health facility.
After creating the folder, the vitals of the customer are taken and recorded in the folder. These include the body temperature, blood-pressure, body-weight, the person’s age and sometimes their blood sugar level.
The patient now joins a queue (if there is one) to the doctor’s consultation room. The doctor reads from the folder and writes in it while interacting and diagnosing the patient. Opening bulky folders can be a laborious task.
After leaving the doctor’s office, the patient may be required to go to the laboratory and place their identity card in a box while waiting for his/her turn to be called to do the laboratory examination. After having the laboratory examination, the patient may have to wait or go and return at another time to see if the results are ready, before sending the sealed results to a doctor.
The doctor may prescribe some medication that the patient will have to carry to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, the prescription will be dropped in a box and the patient will have to wait for his/her medication. After receiving the medication, the patient is shown how to take it and the patient goes back home.
However, a web application can be designed using the Ghanacard as a means for customer identification. The card number becomes the customer’s ID number. Hospitals and other health centres can be created as Heath Units with a unique Health Unit code. Each Health Unit will have an IT administrator who will create users and assign rights and profiles.
Users will typically be doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who attend to patients. The information accessible to a user will depend on the users’ profile based on the specific job role. This is to ensure that the rights and privacy of patients are protected according to the data protection act.
A patient who has the Ghanacard can attend any hospital in Ghana that is linked to the system.
The national health insurance card can be linked to the Ghanacard. Each renewal of health insurance is keyed into the system and the card automatically becomes deactivated in the system when the health insurance card expires. Other health insurance cards aside from the national health insurance card can also be linked to the Ghanacard in the system.
Linking the national health insurance card to the Ghanacard system will help to check the massive fraud that is usually associated with the national health insurance scheme. The key thing to note here is that the system will have an audit trail of all transactions and medications of the patient. With such an audit trail, IT Audit can easily check and verify national health insurance payment claims.
The national health system will ensure that the Ghanacard can be used as a medium of identification across all health centres in the country. It will make when a patient is transferred from one hospital to another become easy, as the medical history can easily be accessed and the person can easily be identified. There can also be a comparative trend analysis of both present and past health information.
The patient does not need to be checking frequently at the laboratory to see if the medical examination results are ready. The system can be automatically programmed to send an alert in the form of email or text to the customer. For customers with medical appointments, the system can send then reminders so that they do not forget the appointment.
The system will also ensure that there is privacy of health information as compared to the use of folders. There will be an audit trail of all who access any information from the system, and hence it will be a deterrent to unauthorised users.
Having such a system will also ensure that the information of customers is safe in the event of a natural disaster. The backend database will have a disaster recovery database that can be kept in the cloud or any secured location within the country. Data replication will be done frequently to ensure that the two databases are at the same level.
A desktop version of the system can be also developed to ensure it can still be used in offline mode when the Internet is not accessible. The data captured can later be synchronised with the live system when Internet connectivity is restored.
To ensure that the system cannot become slow when several users are logged-in, load balancers can be used to distribute user requests across several processing servers. This will ensure that the system is available 24 hours.
The system will also reduce the usage of paper and carrying bulky folders. Folders and paper can also be mediums of transmitting infectious diseases. It will make it easier for the record-officers to easily retrieve the records of patients without going through many folders. It also reduces the burden of carrying multiple ID cards from different health centres. Large number of folders will surely occupy a large amount of physical space. However, with the national health system all the information is stored digitally and physical space can be used more efficiently.
The system will also ensure better cooperation among medical officers, as both present and past medical officers can be identified in the system. Patients who even travel outside the country to continue their medication can still get better treatment should the system be used outside the country.
It is time to get a national health system in place. Let us remember that health is wealth; and for a nation to properly develop, the people must be healthy.
The writer is a Data Engineer, Computer Scientist