By Benjamin Ndovi, IT Coordinator, Malawi
The majority of the focus related to the modernization of medical records is placed on developed countries. However, developing countries are also progressing from paper-based records to electronic records. The requirements of their systems can be dramatically different from those of the developed world.
Malawi, one of the developing countries, has shown quite a remarkable focus and determination in the application and usage of the electronic medical records (EMR). With a case study of the rural Neno District of Malawi (the place where I am working), it was shown that almost every service -- from medical to physical, from the hospitals to the households -- depends on quality input and measurable, quantified accurate outcomes. This data can be used for monitoring and evaluation, future reference, continuity guide, and community sensitization toolkits. The need for sending data electronically has been a major priority in Neno. In January, 2010, we had about 20 computers using our internet/network. Just one year later, the population has increased by approximately 112 percent. This growth has taken us into the need for bandwidth/traffic control measurements and a larger field of computer management.
This shows that there are lot of people, not just the health workers, but also people in the community who are utilizing the system, which has been a priority for communication and data processing, as well as for entertainment and social interaction. One effect that has caused this development is lack of communication facilities in this part of the country. The second is the initiative by Partners In Health to share with the community a passion for real-time, accurate information in order to sustain better health care in the homes of local families. This has enhanced the use of computer-generated reports, such as reports that track patients who default on drug regimens, and basic demographic information of local households.
Getting a view from a local community member’s perspective, most of the information we acquire is what we think is necessary. So when the information is used and processed, how does the each individual gain? This is one of the problems that developing countries have faced while working to enhance the use of technology on health care development -- in addition to resistance and lack of knowledge. Addressing these issues brings in a concrete understanding between the specialists and the community themselves.
Therefore, in addition to data entry, review, analysis and reporting, EMR offers a wide range of pillars for decision-making in order to come up with timely and effective health care.
This piece was originally posted on the Global Health Corps blog. Benjamin Ndovi is the IT Coordinator for PIH's sister organization in Malawi, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo. He is a Global Health Corps Fellow.