By Stanley Onyekwere
By most accounts, there is a clear sigh of relief for residents of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), accessing medical health care at the Kubwa General Hospital, several months after the hospital switched from manual to electronic health (E-health) system.
Respectively, earlier in the year, the digitization of the entire medical care procedure, had subjected health seekers to spending longer time on queues in the process of seeking medical attention at the hospital. And this development caused apprehension as patients had to wait for hours to be attended to.
While some of the patients were outraged due to the long period of waiting at various cash points to get registered and captured in the computer system, others were not even ignorant of the process. According to the hospital management, the initial delays patients encountered were not a challenge but part and parcel of every new system.
However, checks revealed that the situation was majorly caused by the hospital staff , who were not familiar with the new system, and the overwhelming turnout of Abuja residents seeking for health services at the hospital.
But a visit to the hospital last week revealed that the situation has since normalized, paving way for a more efficient delivery of medical services at the hospital as patients are now easily accessing health care services, following the apparent disappearance of hurdles hitherto there.
It was keenly observed that, to ensure this, the hospital had to up the number of cash payment points in the hospital to seven, for ease of payment and embarked on extensive training of staff on how to operate the system.
Equally, at respective units of the hospital significant amount of patients were being attended to speedily, such that there was no case of crowding at the units.
In particular, at the General Out Patient Department (GOPD), Accident Emergency Unit, Ante- Natal Care unit, pediatrics units and cash points, there were no long queues anymore. Patients were speedily attended to as the initial delay that accompanied the new system had given way.
Interestingly, a cross section of patients seen waiting to be attended to, affirmed that they were now enjoying seamless medical care services compared to what obtained before, when it was manual system.
For a female patient, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Ogochukwu, she had quit the hospital for a long time due to the long process involved in getting medical attention in the hospital.
According to her, “I decided come back today because I know they have good doctors that will treat my case and to my surprise, everything improved greatly. Now I can say the hospital is getting better now.
“The experience before was very bad but, I now see it is now different. I see a different thing now. I will be coming now with my whole family.”
Another patient, Jeremiah Johnson, noted that although accessing health services at the hospital has been made easier, his only concern that the new process does not give him room to have access to his test result.
He said: “The system is now good but you have to follow procedure. It is not like before that you can plead with someone to allow you see the doctor before him, or her because you have an urgent case or appointment to catch up with.”
Similarly, a patient, who also gave her name as Benny describe services at the hospital as “very fantastic, faster and stress-free.”
“Things have really improved. As soon as I paid, on getting here (GOPD) my detail is already here. It is very fast now unlike before that they will tell you to wait and be looking for your file or folder for a very long time before carrying it to the nurses to take your vital signs and then to the doctor.”
As expected, the Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Ahmed Danfulani explained that the delay hitherto experienced at the hospital was because the new system required training of staff and not just that, they needed to get familiarized with the system.
Dr Ahmed maintained that patients needed to get use to the system after a short period of time that things were expected to normalize.
He further added that “computerization is different from manual work, therefore, the patients are supposed to have some degree of patience to be able to enjoy the facility.”
Explaining further, the Medical Director said: “from the standpoint, the number of cash points were not much, then the issues of staff getting accustomed to the new method and you know the whole process is power based.
“So if there is any fluctuation in electricity in any form, it affects the process, but by and large we have been able to put things in order and created additional seven cash points.”
On the rationale for the switch over from the manual system, the Kubwa Hospital chief disclosed that the hospital management was only keying to technological advancement, which helped to make things very easy for patients.
According to him, “Electronically medical record is standard worldwide, being part of the emerging digital nature of the world.
“Unlike before, electronic medical record is such that even as I sit in the comfort of my office, I can know everything that is happening in the hospital.
“I can know the number of patients that have been seen today, I can know the number of patients a particular doctor see or a particular lab scientist see, the entire test they have done today.
“I can see how much you have paid to the hospital today or how much you have not paid, and I can see how much the hospital has generated today so far at this point.
“So, apart from that, it is easier to store that kind of information. With only a click of the button all those data will come out. E-health system is the code standard worldwide and we are trying to be at par with the world.”
He said the quality of health care service in the hospital before cannot be compared with what obtains at the moment as the new system has proven more efficient. And according to him, sometimes it takes officials over an hour searching for the file of an old patient.
“They need to trace the folder and it takes between 1, 2-3 hours to go and trace the folder in the rake but, it’s not so obvious to the patients because they are just told to wait, but now you don’t need to wait for anybody. With a click of the button, your record is posted to the doctors,” he said.
Touching on other benefits of the e- health system, Dr. Ahmed said it has improved the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the hospital tremendously and help the hospital to block loopholes.
He described as “unquantifiable,” the number of patients that have accessed care at the hospital without the money being remitted to the hospital.
“if anybody has done anything funny in the system, it’s just for us to go back to the system and we will know the cashier that took money from a patient and did not remit.
“Apart from that, it now makes the management of hospital data very easy. As I sit down here now, if I have your hospital number I can just get all your information. Before I will call somebody to carry one card to the store and look for your folder,” the doctor stressed.
Meanwhile, the MD said because the hospital management has made the services easy for people, the hospital is witnessing an explosive influx of patients not only from Kubwa but from Dutse, Bwari, Suleja and other neighboring towns.
“When we started, in a whole week we hardly get up to 1000 patients, but now we get 1000 patients on a daily basis and the manpower has not really increased.
“If you come here between 4,5, 6 o’clock, this place will be crowded with people. Now we have also introduced the afternoon section because we cannot cope with the morning section,” he disclosed.
Dr Ahmed, who recalled that on his assumption of office in 2012, the hospital had only 75 bed spaces, but now have 140 bed spaces, said even so, the population of people visiting the hospital keep increasing, such that there is now need for further expansion of the hospital to accommodate everybody.