Sat | Dec 3, 2022

High-tech records system to improve healthcare

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2022 | 12:17 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, makes a presentation to lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, makes a presentation to lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Cabinet has approved the award of a contract to Phoenix Partnership (Leeds) Ltd for the implementation of the second stage of the Electronic Health Records Systems to the tune of $780 million.

The system is expected to give parishwide access to public-health records and shorten timelines for medical reviews.

The features include a patient registration system for appointments and assignment of patients in the triage process as well as access to critical diagnostic imaging that will enable doctors to see X-rays and scans on computers and tablets that have already been provided within public-health facilities.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said that health records will be uploaded and shared within the public health system to enable health professionals to trace the history of patients and review interventions, which is expected to result in more efficient diagnosis and treatment.

“This contract award comes in the context of the urgent need for enhanced integration of health systems and has implemented a strategy focused on governance and capacity building, data management and information technologies, information and knowledge management for health analysis, and advocacy and strategic communications, to address the situation,” he said during Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.

Tufton said that the investment opened new horizons for greater use of telemedicine with collaboration among specialist and primary-care health professionals possible locally, regionally, and internationally.

Among the benefits of the system outlined by the minister are shorter wait times, lower costs to provide services, increased productivity, reduced staff frustration, and improved service satisfaction levels.

Opposition Spokesperson on Health Dr Morais Guy endorsed the programme but raised concerns about Internet connectivity, maintenance of equipment, and access to the information by private healthcare providers.

“FLOW Jamaica does not have that coverage right across the island to give a seamless integration of this system. When is it that they are going to do that? I know that it is part of their strategy based on the contract that you have signed with them,” Guy said.

Further, the opposition spokesperson argued that too often the Government purchases equipment which become dysfunctional because they are not maintained over time.

In response, Tufton said Internet connectivity can be a challenge in some areas, but the Government has been working to provide more wide-scale services.

“Minister Vaz had announced recently a new initiative which will use satellite technology to cover the entire country. So, I wouldn’t worry about that. I think the Government has that under control,” he said, referencing Daryl Vaz, the science, energy and technology minister.

Tufton sought to assure lawmakers that the contract had a maintenance arrangement for a limited period.

“We are moving now into an approach for the future to secure the lifetime of our investments by reviewing our approach to maintenance, and this is not just in the electronic gadgets or the diagnostic gadgets, it also includes buildings,” the minister said.

The minister added that there are provisions to allow for the transfer of patient data from the public health system on request by a private healthcare provider.

FACT BOX:

The 18-month implementation period for the contract will see the roll-out of the Electronic Health Records System in 13 facilities, namely:

1. Greater Portmore Health Centre

2. St Jago Park Health Centre

3. Old Harbour Health Centre

4. Lionel Town Health Centre

5. May Pen Health Centre

6. Mocho Health Centre

7. Ocho Rios Health Centre

8. St Ann’s Bay Health Centre

9. Chapelton Health Centre

10. Brown’s Town Health Centre

11. Spanish Town Hospital

12. May Pen Hospital

13. St Ann’s Bay Hospital