Electronic system improves Joburg’s primary healthcare

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Hot on the heels of announcing gains against criminal activity thanks to the use of technology, the City of Johannesburg (COJ) has lauded its electronic health records system for transforming primary healthcare.

While much of the patients’ data at the majority of the COJ’s clinics was captured manually, in June 2016, the city’s health department decided to introduce an online system aimed at moving away from the old paper-based patient record system.

To date, the health department says its system has been rolled out across 66 of the 81 primary healthcare centres, and has managed to record the details of 709 765 patients during this time.

Through the system, the city’s nurses are able to securely and easily share electronic medical records with patients and other medical practitioners, reduce medical errors and provide overall healthcare convenience.

The department emphasises the system enables nurses to reduce costs by handling less paperwork, cutting down duplication of testing and treatment, and improving access to primary healthcare.

Further, each clinic is able to provide accurate, up-to-date information about patients at the point of care, enabling quick access to patient records for more coordinated and efficient care.

Commenting on the advantages of the system, Nthabiseng Tsotetsi, an operations manager at Crosby Clinic in Region B, says the system has revolutionised the provision of primary healthcare.

“Before the e-health system, patient information was captured manually by different people at different times. It took time to consolidate patient information and often during data validation, it would be found that patient information was wrong. Also, patient statistics were done manually, which took a lot of time and it took even longer to analyse the statistics manually.”

Tsotetsi explains that for herself and her colleagues, the use of a tech-enabled system enables them to provide accurate prescriptions, enhance efficiency, privacy and security of patient data.

On average, Crosby Clinic sees over 3 182 patients a month, therefore the system helps streamline the work of nurses, she notes.

“The e-health system has greatly assisted in ensuring report writing is done timeously and that statistics are accurate. Because it is centralised, it has also helped us identify patients who shop around for medication. The controlled booking system has made our employees’ lives easier.”

Embracing tech

The introduction of tech in healthcare is not a new occurrence within the country or at local government level.

The City of Cape Town, which prides itself on being SA’s tech hub, said, in 2017, it was looking at rolling out electronic booking systems at some of its clinics. The motivation, it said, was to potentially reduce patient queues, congestion and waiting times.

In addition to the electronic health records system, the COJ’s health department plans to install a smart queuing system to stabilise patient lines at clinics and allow for the transfer of records from reception to consultation rooms using an anonymous numbering process.

The system will include queue monitors at reception areas and access to booking appointments via a cellphone, reveals the department.

“Embracing an electronic health records system in the delivery of primary healthcare is part of Joburg’s overall plan to deliver all municipal services through digital platforms, enabling the city to become smart, comparatively, with its first world counterparts.”

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