Over the past five years Datacentrix has been working with the Western Cape Department of Health (WC DoH) to develop a single Electronic Patient Record (EPR) as part of the province’s patient-centric 2030 healthcare strategy.

National Strategy Manager: EIM Public Sector at Datacentrix, Trish Dicks, explained that Datacentrix first started working with the WC Department of Social Development and the Department of Transport close on a decade ago and from there established working relationships with other provincial departments.

“The WC DoH initially approached us for an Enterprise Content Management solution; at our suggestion we helped them to upgrade their paper based patient records into a digitised format. Due to the project’s success we continued working with the department in rolling out EPRs across the province,” said Dicks.

Following Datacentrix’s implementation of their Enterprise Information Management (EIM) system at Khayelitsha Hospital in 2012 and ongoing work at Tygerberg Hospital since 2009, Datacentrix was awarded  a tender by the WC Government in 2013 to deploy their EPR, which is built on OpenText technology, at Mitchells Plain Hospital; and thereafter to roll out their solution to the remainder of the 54 hospitals across the province. “The WC DoH’s EIM vision is to reduce physical documentation and paper based files to improve clinical care and the management of patient information, and reduce patient waiting times thus enhancing service delivery,” said Dicks.

Due to the lack of infrastructure in the country, Dicks explained that Datacentrix’s EPR system is currently a combination of paper and electronic based records. “The paper based patient history is scanned to allow clinicians to see the information online during a consultation. Doctors can still capture patient notes on paper, which is then scanned into the system retrospectively, giving nurses, doctors and universities access to the information as required,” said Dicks.

According MD of the EIM business unit at Datacentrix, Juane Peacock, what sets the system’s implementation apart from other solutions has been its rapid uptake. “Most eHealth pilots in the country are still in the pilot phase seven years on; meanwhile our system has been piloted, adapted, rolled out and is functioning,” said Peacock.

Datacentrix credits the success of their solution to closely engaging with clinicians in the development process and the thorough change management and training processes that are in place pre-and post- roll out. “There’s an ongoing transfer of skills that relies on effective communication and collaborative practices. Such methods are imperative for any rollout for a solution,” said Peacock.

The EPR system is interoperable with other eHealth systems, such as JAC Medicines Management solution and Clinicom, Further “Doctors all have and use mobile technology and they are the drivers for more electronic forms and eHealth tools in general,” said Peacock.

“Doctors are smart, so they barely need any training in using our system, and in fact they are the ones who share developments with us that they picked up along the way,” said Dicks.

As part of their expansion strategy, Datacentrix is developing a template based drop-down menu solution to capture patient information along with ICD-10 codes that will be “accessible anywhere, at any time, with any device, by anyone,” said Peacock.  Dicks added that the solution is currently in beta testing and will be rolled out in the coming months.

While Datacentrix’s system is primarily being used in healthcare facilities in the WC, it is also being used nationally by the National Health Laboratory Systems  in 26 facilities and soon to be rolled-out to the 264 labs across the country. There are also talks underway with the public sectors in Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, as well as major players in the private sector.

Datacentrix is currently involved in the Eden District NHI pilot at George Hospital, and they are confident in their participation in the further rollout of NHI because “EPRs need to be implemented throughout SA for NHI to work,” said Dicks.

However, Dicks pointed out that the NHI strategy as it stands currently lacks strong leadership, is often secondary given the day to day necessities of the public health service that the NDoH is dealing with. “Health is the most complex business in the world; for NHI to work it needs more funding, leadership and decision making, which is not high up on the agenda for the NDoH,” said Dicks. “Some projects in the NHI rollout are ground-breaking, but they need to be seen through to completion.”

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