The FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS) has called for the adoption of the Electronic Health Records (e-health) to ease the digitalisation of health records, especially among Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities.
The Acting Secretary, HHSS, Dr Muhammad Kawu, made the call on Monday in Abuja during a validation meeting of the ‘End Term Assessment of Electronic Health Records and Telemedicine Diagnostic Device Proof of Concept Projects’.
The pilot project of the device, which recorded no fewer than 9,950 clinic visits, was conducted at the Kuchigoro PHC facility, a satellite town along airport road in the FCT.
Kawu said that the adoption would ease the digitilisation of all business processes and service points, adding that building and integrating a mobile version would ease patients’ access to clinical consultations when needed.
“Over the period of pilot implementation, the telemedicine diagnostic device platform was deployed in Kuchigoro PHC located in a densely populated suburb of Abuja.
“It seamlessly linked to remote specialists in the family medicine department of Wuse District Hospital (WDH), its linked referral facility.
“Today, nearly one year after, we gather here not only to evaluate the pilot project, but also to recommend ways of improving its performance.
“We are also looking at increasing its adoption and mobilising funding to scale up and expand the device to other facilities across the six area councils of the FCT in line with the goals of UHC,” he said.
Kawu called for the training of health workers on basic computer appreciation skills, as well as continuous training and retraining of workers in order to be abreast of global trends and practice.
The Deputy Director, E- Health, HHSS, Dr Inibong Ekong, in a remark, said that the project at Kuchigoro had significantly increased access to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), adding that it should be optimised and scaled up to other facilities.
He noted that the usage of the device had also increased clinic attendance by 8.4 per cent, with over 25 per cent of visiting patients’ resident outside the catchment area of the facility.
“It has saved cost of printing paper-based files and folders, equivalent to 75 per cent of records captured on the platform over six months.
“It has also eliminated cost and time of travelling to access specialist care in the city hospital by 33 per cent of patients through the teleconsultation with the remote specialists at WDH,” he said.
Ekong said that the project, which seeks to test and demonstrate the achievement of UHC through integration of ICT and telemedicine into health system, is a collaboration between the FCT HHSS and the Federal Ministry of Health.
He, however, said that in spite of records of achievements, the project experienced some challenges and limitations largely due to the scope of the pilot focus, and low ICT capacity of health workers.
He listed the challenges to include slow speed on the computer, resistance to change, coexisting manual paper-based processes, poor internet connectivity and inadequate bandwidth for teleconsultation, and shortage of personnel.
“These limitations adversely affected patients’ waiting time; the good thing, however, is that it did not cause patient dissatisfaction.
“Most of these identified challenges are transient and will be adequately mitigated with maturity of the implementation as well as through evidence-based monitoring and evaluation feedbacks and supportive supervision,” he said.
Dr Modupe Adeyinka, Director, Primary Health Care (PHC), in AMAC, commended the initiative of the project and the collaborative partners for their efforts to digitalise the primary health care system in the FCT.
Adeyinka said that the PHC in AMAC had benefited from the initiative, adding that it had boosted effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery.
She called for the extension of the project to other PHCs in the other local governments of the FCT.
“E-Health is a way forward, especially at the grassroots level. We are grateful for this programme and hope for more,” she said.