Wed | Aug 23, 2017

University Hospital of the West Indies goes digital

Published:Wednesday | April 27, 2016 | 4:00 AMTameka Gordon
Douglas Halsall, chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems.
Professor Archibald McDonald, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of UWI Mona.
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The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) will convert to an electronic hospital management system come May 1, under a US$1-million investment.

The project is being handled by Jamaican IT company Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS) and its partner Suvarna, based in India.

All the hospital's record-keeping and management functions will be overhauled, AIS Chairman and CEO Doug Halsall told Wednesday Business.

"It will be an end-to-end computerisation of the hospital, from registration to doctors' desk, bed management, lab requests to pharmacy," Halsall said.

He said the project came about through AIS' own investment in the hospital systems-management technology when it bought an equity stake in Suvarna about five to six years ago and began looking for business locally.

UHWI is spending US$1 million to obtain the licence to use the platform produced by the Indian company. AIS will implement the system and handle all upgrades and data entry.

While hospital management systems typically costs anywhere from US$7 million to US$20 million, the UHWI was able to leverage its brand and contacts to get a lower price, according to UWI Principal and Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Archibald McDonald.

COST SAVINGS

Prof McDonald told Wednesday Business that UWHI expects significant cost savings from the project.

"Let us take X-ray, for example. When a patient goes to the X-ray department, there will be no more need for films, as a digital image will be transferred to the ward so a doctor can just turn on his computer and look at the image. There is a lot of savings from that because X-ray films are very expensive," he said.

Additionally, the platform can be accessed by mobile devices - smartphones and tablets, for instance - creating even greater efficiencies in the hospital's functions and reducing patients' wait time, McDonald reasoned.

"The doctor has a smartphone. He will punch in the patient's number and get the results on his smartphone," he said, noting, for example, that speedy access to blood tests would result in improvements in overall patient care.

Additionally: "There will be no more long waits as clerks search for dockets, and there will be no more lost dockets," the UWI principal said.

The hospital management system will also aid inventory control in the pharmacy and facilitate patient transfers.

"A big problem in pharmacies is that drugs expire on us. So the system will be able to track that and send an alert when medications are about to expire. So that is a lot of savings, again," McDonald said.

HOPE FOR CHANGE ELSEWHERE

Regarding patient transfers, he said, UWI hopes that other public hospitals will eventually get a similar system, which would put an end to the paperwork that doctors have to do when transferring a patient to the UHWI.

The system will also be installed in the clinics on UWI's campus.

"The idea is not to take all their millions of records and data enter all those before we start," Halsall said. Instead, "we will have a cut-off date and we will take all the records as of that date, and those will be paperless going forward."

Regarding the backlog, he said AIS presumes that over a period of time, the patients will return to UHWI for treatment in the future, at which point their treatment can be added to the system. Older information will be added gradually over time.

Suvarna specialises in hospital systems and manages the fully computerised, paperless systems of some 600 hospitals and 700 laboratories globally.

"We bought in because we realise that hospital systems, especially patient records, were a high priority and requirement," Halsall said of AIS' own investment in the Indian company.

The Jamaican company, which processes medical claims for the local insurance industry, among other things, hopes to sell the management system to all government hospitals locally. AIS also plans to market the system in other Caribbean islands as well as Central America.

Financial backing for AIS' push into the region is being handled by Financial Transaction Processors Limited, based in St Lucia, Halsall said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com