ONE factor that will be key in determining whether or not 2018 will be a collective success for Zambians is technology.
The pace at which technology is embraced in all spheres will either take Zambia onto a speedy track of development and improved standards of living or down a path of backwardness.
The year 2017 has closed with a perfect example of benefits of embracing technology. This has been evidenced at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), which has introduced an electronic health record system.
This demonstrates the desire by public institutions to embrace technology to enhance efficiency.
Already, patients are satisfied by the country’s biggest referral medical facility’s decision to go paperless.
Apart from the patients, everybody along the service chain at UTH is now enjoying the benefits of digital record keeping.
Patients were being inconvenienced by moving around with bulky documents such as X-ray films and other medical documents.
For an institution of UTH’s magnitude, medical staff too had challenges of reading documents that were faded or had challenges in relaying messages from one section to the other.
We therefore commend UTH for coming up with the innovation, which will help the institution to easily access health information.
With this technology, UTH, which handles the highest number of patients at any given time in the country, should significantly curtail the amount of errors arising from the laboratory tests as well as prescriptions.
The electronic health record system will enable all players involved in the treatment process access patients’ data from the comfort of their work stations.
What an innovative system of eliminating manual medical and the paper trails which fatigued people manning patients’ records.
This could also curtail corruption as sometimes staff who handle these files create a crisis for the patients to ‘offer something’ to expedite the search and movement of the documents from one office to another.
Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya also notes that the paperless system, under the electronic health (e-health) programme, will enhance confidentiality in health facilities.
Two weeks ago, Dr Chilufya announced that public health institutions in Lusaka will in the first quarter of 2018 go “paperless”.
He said some health facilities in Southern and Copperbelt provinces are already paperless in their quest to strengthen delivery of services.
It is good that this is one good idea that has seen the light of day. This is proof of walking the talk on improving efficiency.
This is a service that must quickly spread to other health care centres, not only in urban areas, but also those in rural areas. If anything, the rural patients are probably in greater need of this system than those in urban areas.
After all, this roll-out is in line with Government’s Smart Zambia Master Plan programme designed to improve the flow of information within and among government institutions, enterprises and citizens to bring about social and economic benefits.
According to the Seventh National Development Plan launched by President Edgar Lungu in 2017, Government will transform its mode of delivery of public services from traditional face-to-face interaction to online channels to ensure that citizens and business entities can access services anywhere and anytime.
This is what is obtaining with the introduction of electronic health record system in public health institutions.
In his address to Parliament in 2015, President Lungu called for the transformation of service provision by both public and private sectors through the use of innovative information and communications technologies (ICTs).
UTH’s adoption of the electronic health record system is confirmation of President Lungu’s desire to see the public service fully adapt to the e-governance system.
The electronic health record system will revolutionarise the health system in the country because it will lead to, among other benefits, better record keeping and smooth updating processes.
Let this be one of Zambia’s cornerstones for development in 2018.