Digitization of the Health Service and Matters arizing

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As a former employee of the Ghana Health Service, I was intrigued and fascinated when the minister of health earlier this month held a durbar to announce the digitization of the health service, and before I proceed to looking at the subject, it is important to set the records straight. The Ghana Health Service started going digital years ago. For instance the Sunyani Regional Hospital, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Hwidiem, Goaso Government Hospital and several others went digital before 2013. As far back as 2013, I was assigned by my superiors to collate data from the health institutions which includes CHPS compounds, maternity homes, clinics and health centres under our jurisdiction to be sent to region for analysis and compilation to be sent to Accra.

There are various softwares that are being used by the various health institutions under the Ghana Health Service but the most widely used are DHIMS and HAMS.

MERITS.

Both DHIMS and HAMS, which are effective and efficient health information tools when properly implemented by health institutions will help deliver service in a real time. It is meant to eradicate the ‘protocols’ and bribery (I will explain further).

REALITY.

With the introduction of these tools came CHALLENGES, so huge that it affected the attendance of the facility.

* Inability of the facility to enter data of clients into the new system. Goaso Government Hospital registers over 30,000 new clients every year, not to talk of clients that have been there before and with the medical records unit’s staff strength of 3 staffs paid by GHS, 5 casuals and 4 national service personnel, it will be near impossible to halt attending to clients in the name of data-entry. And because of the importance records keeping which includes getting the medical history of client, it would be suicidal to issue a new e-folder to the client. For better understanding, it is challenging to convert hard folder that contains medical history of clients to e-folder.

* Access to network has always been a challenge. One has to wait several hours for an employee of the company that installed the information tool when it malfunctions, sometimes some small fault would mean they travelling from Accra to Goaso to fix it. This stalls work, delays clients and leads to death. This may lead to incorrect data collection.

* Lack of expertise in handling the tool at the institution. The E-Folder ought to be used in all departments of the hospital, from medical records, OPD, consultaion rooms, laboratories, dispensary, emergency unit, pediatric wards, male and female wards, administration, stores, ear-nose-throat unit, dental unit, eyes and even the mortuary. The challenges of staff empowerment abounds and ought to be critically looked at.

The claims unit of the hospitals can confirm the E-Claim validation was introduced under the NDC administration.

The NDC did very well by piloting the digitization of the Ghana Health Service.

What this government should urgently do is to

* Urgently complete the various CHPS compounds that have been left to rot in the villages to help save the lives of our farmers. They also are Ghanaians. Where there are no electricity, the CHPS compound model of the NDC with inbuilt solar panels, water storage facilities, accommodation facilities for health workers, motorbikes to aid community visitations should be continued.

* The opening of the various health training institutions to train more community health nurses and physician assistants.

* The health module of the youth employment agency should be expanded to accommodate more young persons to be sent to these communities.

* The minister of health should advocate for an end to CAPPING of hospitals internally generated funds (IGF’s) for casuals who are the spine of the GHS are at risk of loosing their jobs.

* Clients are now paying for FBC and other lab tests which was free at the various labs as at 2016.

* The health insurance  has gone from good to bad. Even paracetamol which was being given for free as at 2016 is sometimes unavailable.

Source: Edem Koku Edem, Goaso.

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