The health sector is set to have a major upgrade in the form of the Government Health Information System (GHIS) that is currently in development by the Information Technology (IT) Department of the Ministry of Public Health.
Despite grinding to a halt in March of 2012, the GHIS gained new life in 2016 when the ministry was able to secure funding from a number of organisations for various aspects of the programme, from staffing to equipment.
The project, currently funded by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an endeavour undertaken by the Ministry in the hope of creating and building a complete database of diseases and patient information to cater for every Guyanese, from cradle to grave.
Completion of this project will see every public health care institution being upgraded to have an automated patient information system, allowing a patient’s medical history to be pulled up almost instantaneously, regardless of which public healthcare institute they decide to visit.
What this means, is that a patient who has a history of being treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), will be able to go to their neighbourhood clinic or health centre for a check-up, and the medical personnel stationed there will be able to quickly pull up their treatment history from GPHC. This will allow the medical personnel to be better able to assess the individual and if necessary, issue medication. The database will also indicate past diagnosis and a complete medical history of the individual, including any drug they were ever issued to take as well as allergic reactions.
The establishment of this system saw the creation of the Strategic Information Technical Working Group, and the National Classification of Primary Health Care, the latter being responsible for standardisation of disease classification to ensure that there is a smooth flow of data and prevent confusion across various regions.
An example of this being that one doctor may say his patient suffered a Myocardial infarction, whereas another may say his patient had a Heart Attack, both of these are the same thing, but because of training and localisation, different names may be used.
The programme also features ICD-10 coding within its software, assisting with the standardisation and preventing the confusion that comes with multiple names for a disease.
Since the programme’s resuscitation in 2016, they would have already begun testing it at the East La Penitence Health Centre, which serves as the Pilot location. Before becoming the Pilot location, the Health Centre was not only assessed by external consultants, but also had to undergo a number of upgrades in terms of infrastructure and security, to be able to be assigned the software.
Included within the software is a system that allows for the pharmacist and attending physician to see exactly how much of any medication they have on hand, and is expected to be able to generate an expiry report, which will help track and remove expired medication from the various pharmacies.
To date, the team has managed to work through a number of glitches, and at this point are working on adding additional features for the software, which is web-based, with hopes of having it implemented at least at Regional Hospitals by 2020.
However, while the programme has garnered the support of both the previous and current Health Ministers of this administration, with a prospective date of partial completion in 2020, which is an election year, the programmers attached to the programme remain on edge as to what this could mean for them.
One programmer explained that something as simple as a change in Minister is enough to see the project losing support from the ministry, let alone a complete change in Government. Further fears expressed would be the loss of funding for the project. Back in 2012, upon losing funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the assigned programmers, who were paid by the CIDA, were forced to leave the project since the ministry could not afford to pay them, bringing the project to a complete stop.
These fears persist, as the programmers remain adamant that it is possible for the funding to be pulled again, at which point they would have to be transferred under the Ministry, to which most exclaimed the pay is far from desirable. As such, staffing still remains an issue for the team, but they are committed to doing as much as they can despite the constraints.
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