Electronic health records (EHR) have been touted as essential in facilitating continuum of care and reducing medical errors which sometimes can cause unnecessary deaths. In this interview with our contributor MATHEWS MALATA JR. engages Baobab Health Trust (BHT) projects officer LINDA MCHAWI to explain why private and public hospitals in Malawi should embrace EHR’s? Excerpts:
How did you come up with Mizu electronic health records system and what problem is it addressing?
For the last 19 years, Baobab Health Trust has developed different systems that cater to specific departments and programmes within the health sector. From the experience gained through system implementation as well as feedback from healthcare personnel, it became increasingly clear that there was a need for an application that would cover operations of entire facilities rather than specific departments or diseases.
As the needs of the users were changing with time, BHT responded by building a software application that would ensure coverage and continuum of care across an entire hospital: from the entry of a user through registration to vitals, consultation, labs, pharmacy and discharge from the hospital. This means that patients no longer have to register in multiple systems in a hospital, nor do paper files need to be transferred from one department to another within the same hospital. A comprehensive health record can be generated of each patient and this allows the hospital to serve their patients better.
Of what good is the system to the providers and Malawians at large?
The system is a hospital-wide system that covers the entire patient’s visit from registration to billing. It is highly customisable and can be set up according to a facility’s specifications. In terms of billing, facilities have prepayment and post-payment modes of billing and our system is designed to handle that. We also realise the need to ensure that reports can be generated from the system and our system is able to do so. If a facility would like to generate specific types of reports, for instance, the number of malaria cases they are having a month, we can work with them to set up that.
Which facilities are currently using Mizu EHR?
We are targeting all types of health facilities including small clinics, mission hospitals, private hospitals, as well as government facilities. Our goal is to have the Mizu EHR operating as the standard electronic health record for all medical facilities in Malawi and beyond. Hospitals and clinics should go for Mizu EHR because it was built with all users’ needs in mind.
The system is designed not just for patients and primary healthcare professionals [doctors, nurses, clinicians, pharmacists], but for every professional who interacts with the healthcare system.
Is there any market study conducted before the development of the application?
Baobab Health Trust has been in existence for 19 years and over the course of this period, we have received requests from multiple health facilities for an electronic medical record to improve their operations. Over the last year, one of our primary focus areas has been working with multiple stakeholders in the healthcare system to design and develop this application.
What is the strength of the system?
Our system was built to enhance the patient care experience for both the patient and the provider. Our system covers both the inpatient and the outpatient sections of a facility and ensures that all hospital resources are effectively managed.
The reporting mechanism of Mizu EHR can be specialised to ensure that a facility’s reporting are met. In addition to this, the system incorporates automated lab ordering and results, automated billing, diagnosis and complaints search, note-taking and real-time clinical decision support. This enables medical staff to gain a holistic view of a patient’s history, prescription, lab and vitals information on one screen.
How can such systems improve operations and build the reputation of private health facilities?
Systems such as the Mizu EHR can help private health facilities improve the provision of care, manage their resources and improve their billing methods. From our meetings with private health facilities, one of the issues that were prevalent was having an effective and easy to manage billing system and Mizu EHR is able to do that. This will greatly improve the provision of care.
Have you piloted the system elsewhere?
We are working on installing the system at two facilities within Lilongwe, a small clinic and a medium facility with over 250 inpatient beds.
How can the government of Malawi benefit from such homegrown solutions/ innovations?
We are local, our system was made by Malawians with a primary focus on Malawian health facilities and health professionals. To have Mizu EHR installed in every government health facility and beyond would be a tremendous feat.
We want to improve the delivery of care in our facilities and also create jobs for Malawians. For instance, to install and maintain this system, we will require both technical and non-technical personnel. We can create a lot of jobs through this application and can help to help to grow our economy.
Health information managers will be needed to maintain all the data that will be produced from this system and that’s another career path we can open up for Malawians. Additionally, being locally available within the country, means that we can quickly provide system support to facilities and ensure that their operations run smoothly.
Can the government hospitals easily use the system?
Yes, government hospitals can use this system. The system was built to cater to all facilities and address their needs. We are open to customising the application to suit different contexts where there is a need to do so.