eHealth News, South Africa

Doctors Digitise Triage to Save Lives

Two young local doctors have taken it upon themselves to develop healthcare apps for junior doctors.

TOMPSA - EHN

Two young local doctors have taken it upon themselves to develop healthcare apps for junior doctors.

“During my time at Doctors without Borders, I witnessed patients dying because of a disorganised triaging system; I didn’t want to see that ever happen again,” said Dr Mohammed Dalwai, Co-founder and Director of The Open Medicine Project South Africa (TOMPSA) – a non-profit organisation designing open source mobile applications to assist healthcare professionals  working on the frontline.

TOMPSA is the brainchild of University of Stellenbosch students Dr Dalwai and Dr Yaseen Khan who experienced first-hand the stresses junior doctors are under when thrust into under resourced public healthcare facilities. Dr Dalwai and Dr Khan recognised that while there are great international apps available to help junior doctors; they aren’t applicable to the South African setting.

Based on that premise, TOMPSA developed two flagship projects that were designed to be used by healthcare workers as knowledge and support tools to enable better patient outcomes.

The first is their triage device and accompanying mobile app that guides healthcare workers through the triaging process step-by-step, providing them with the information they need to triage patients correctly and according to the severity of their condition. By guiding users through this critical process, the app reduces human error and organises workflow in ER settings that are often vulnerable to overburdening, under staffing and stringent time pressures.

“Triaging is essential to prioritising patients as they come into a hospital, yet when it is not understood it is inefficient and leads to avoidable deaths,” said TOMPSA Co-founder and Director Dr Yaseen Khan. “In the Western Cape alone over 100,000 patients are mis-triaged every year,” said Dr Khan.

TOMPSA has collaborated with the Western Cape Department of Health (DoH) to implement a pilot project using the app at Khayelitsha District Hospital. “Every junior healthcare worker has access to the triage app and there has been enormous positive feedback and great results. In conjunction with enabling an effective triaging process, the device facilitates an instant electronic record of triage – such as the patient’s name and vitals – that relays the data to a central point in an emergency centre. Our next step is to introduce a dashboard to allow doctor interaction,” said Dr Dalwai.

There are further plans underway to include contact details and admissions processes for all public hospitals in the province and to make the app available in other languages such as Xhosa and Zulu.

TOMPSA’s other project is an Emergency Medicine (EM) Guidance Book app that offers users instant access to emergency clinical guidelines at the point of care. The app is essentially a digital version of the Emergency Medicine Guidance Books that are issued by the joint Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University.

“We believe access to these vital clinical guidelines will result in them being followed much more closely,” said Dr Khan. The app contains contextual information that can be updated instantaneously with newer, more relevant information as it becomes available. Medical schools and content experts are constantly collaborating to improve the system. “EM is a collaborative, Wiki-type tool for experts,” said Dr Khan.

The app is ideal for junior doctors working on the frontline in rural settings where internet connectivity is unreliable. “When healthcare workers download the app, all the content is stored to their device and accessible offline,” said Dr Dalwai.

TOMPSA’s EM and Triage apps are free to download and available on both iOS and Android platforms.

Other projects in TOMPSA’s pipeline include streamlining the GeneXpert testing process; and providing simple, comprehensive HIV testing apps and ARV guidelines. Their ultimate goal is to have a “super app that accesses all critical guidelines for daily use; one that’s linked to teaching hospitals to ensure current information. We want to establish the foremost resource for emergency healthcare,” said Dr Dalwai.

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