The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), the largest diagnostic pathology laboratory service in South Africa, has rolled out InterSystems’ TrakCare Laboratory information System (LIS) across all of its 349 laboratories in all of SA’s nine provinces, laying the groundwork for other healthcare and state owned entities (SOEs) to implement a single, integrated eHealth platform to manage patient results.

The NHLS is the largest public health pathology network in South Africa, providing routine laboratory testing and epidemiological disease monitoring services. The national network serves about 80% of the South African population who use the public health services and the implementation is an enormous step towards streamlining access to patient results for treating doctors and other clinical staff; and ensuring continuity of care for patients.

The roll out of TrakCare LIS began in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in 2009, with the final region being completed in the Western Cape in 2015. Migration of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) to the TrakCare system was completed in the second quarter of 2016.

A first for the country’s health system is the ability to electronically exchange patient demographics for order entry and results data between the TrakCare Lab and 17 other systems, both internally and externally.  These include hospital information systems in Western Cape, KZN and the Free State, Netcare, Right to Care and Contract Laboratory Service (CLS). This capability to exchange information between multiple systems is due to the fact that TrakCare utilises the Intersystems Ensemble® integration engine, which enables integration and interoperability between systems.

“The NHLS is pleased with the successful deployment of TrakCare and moving closer to realising our strategic objective to optimise our service through the use of information systems. We are currently undertaking an enhancement process to improve the end user experience and once this is complete, we believe we will have demonstrated the power of IT systems to improve the delivery of health services through safe data exchange,” said CEO at the NHLS, Joyce Mogale.

“South Africa is making strides towards connected, patient-centred healthcare by successfully managing patient data on a digital system that connects on a national network. This is a critical component towards realising National Health Insurance (NHI) and universal coverage. This roll out paves the way for future eHealth systems as the country gets ready to transition into an IT-supported health service,” concluded Mogale.

The system is expected to reduce costs by significantly reducing duplication and waste as efficiencies can be monitored and managed. Improving turnaround time for laboratory results enables quicker diagnosis and patients can be put onto appropriate treatment sooner improving outcomes. This applies to all diseases, but is very important for Tuberculosis and HIV that are currently part of the high burden of disease in South Africa. KZN, which has the largest HIV-positive population in SA, has reportedly had a significant improvement in turning around laboratory results, and supporting both early diagnosis and treatment of its HIV-positive population.

With the expected increase in demand for pathology services and SA’s adoption of the WHO’s Test & Treat guidelines, the NHLS is positioned to support the Department of Health in its objective to implement the 90-90-90 strategy and the other emerging non-communicable burden on the health system.

The country-wide roll out required project management, ongoing end user training and change management to ensure a successful implementation. According to the NHLS, an enhancement process is currently under way to identify areas to further improve the end user experience.

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