The value of new life is unquestionable. And our mission as human beings is to protect it. But there are places in the world where the local healthcare systems are still lacking in resources and medical personnel that would be able to efficiently take care of pregnant women and their babies, as well as the other patients in need. What they also lack is time. Time to help all of the patients quickly enough. But it can change and it will change.
If you want to know how this problem of time can be solved, we introduce you to read this case study on the implementation of OpenMRS in Sierra Leone.’
The challenges of a local healthcare system
According to UNICEF, the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone is the highest in the world. In every 100 live births, more than 1 woman dies, and over 11 children per 100 live births die before reaching the age of 5.
These shockingly high numbers are the result of extreme poverty, as well as the shortages in professional healthcare personnel, medical infrastructure and supplies. Due to the civil war and the Ebola outbreak that have damaged the fragile healthcare system even further, the list of problems and challenges is not getting any shorter. Many people of Sierra Leone still do not have access to the help that they need.
This tough situation strikes the hardest at pregnant women and infants. Pregnancy is a delicate state in which the utmost care is needed in order to provide a peaceful and healthy time for both mother and the child to grow and recover. But for many Sierra Leonean families these time and care are not available. There are not enough medical facilities and workers. Not enough money and time. Not enough people to save other people.
Saving lives of mothers and children in Sierra Leone
Wellbody Clinic in Kono District is a facility supported by Partners in Health. It is a professional clinic that takes care of around 200 patients daily. It was built to fill the gaps in the local healthcare system and provide the community with quality help that is needed.
The clinic provides specialistic healthcare services, such as vaccinations, malnutrition care, HIV treatment and counseling. It also helps women and their children through monitoring the pregnancy and guaranteeing intensified care for high-risk pregnancies. Thanks to the professionals at Wellbody Clinic it has been over four years without maternal deaths in the facility.
One of the things that make it truly stand out from the other healthcare facilities in Sierra Leone is OpenMRS – electronic medical records system – the first system of this type implemented in the country. Its main purpose is simple – transforming traditional, paper medical records into digital ones.
How does it work?
Instead of a room full of paper folders, there are laptops at the reception desk and in physicians’ offices. Instead of a time-consuming process of sorting the folders and searching for the right one, to hand it to the patient, there are plastic cards with identification numbers and barcodes. All of the important data is in the system. Clear, safe and automatic.
At the appointment, all the physician has to do is to scan the plastic card. The rest is OpenMRS’ job. The system will provide the physician with medical history of the patient, observations from previous appointments, tests results, medication regimen, etc. Every piece of medical information on the patient will be there, easy to find, quick to access.
How can it save lives?
It might seem like it is just a matter of convenience. And it certainly is. Having the electronic system that automatically displays all of the information in one place is, for sure, more comfortable than searching through the endless paper folders. That convenience, however, is far more meaningful than one could expect.
In the process of saving lives, time is often the key. The Sierra Leonean healthcare system is still weak and not capable of answering all of the community’s needs. The more time we save on other tasks, the more of it can be used on helping people. Electronic medical records system takes great weight off of local medical workers’ backs. It allows them to focus on other, more crucial tasks. It also lets them serve more patients, as they have more time available.
Not only time, but also energy is saved. Having all of the data in one place helps physicians to focus solely on diagnosing and treating patients. They no longer have to worry that a part of someone’s medical records has gone missing. They also do not have to browse through the endless papers during each appointment anymore. All of the information that they need are clearly displayed in the system, neatly sorted out and protected from getting lost. Physicians can finally focus on what they do best – saving people’s lives.
Future mothers coming to the clinic can now be sure that all of the data regarding their pregnancy is safely stored in one place. Their energy and time are also saved, as the registration process and the appointment last way shorter than they used to before the implementation of OpenMRS. It is especially important when it comes to pregnancy, because the long and tiring waiting at the clinic could have a negative effect on the health of both the mother and her baby.
We are hoping that in the future OpenMRS will help in saving many more Sierra Leonean families.
The future of Sierra Leonean healthcare system
Wellbody Clinic in Kono District was the first in the country to implement OpenMRS. This, however, is just the beginning. According to PIH representatives, there are plans of further implementations in all of the PIH-supported facilities in Sierra Leone. The main goal is to connect these clinics into one database. It would allow clinicians to have a full, comprehensive insight into the medical history of their patients and, as a result, diagnose them more accurately and plan their treatment more efficiently.
Life is the most precious thing we have. We need to do what we can to protect it. Thanks to OpenMRS’ help, many lives have been saved and, hopefully, many more will be saved in the future.
Sierra Leone Clinic Launches Electronic Medical Records to Transform Patient Care
Partners in Health | Sierra Leone
Healthy Newborn Network | Wellbody Alliance
UNICEF | Sierra Leone – Maternal, neonatal and child health