Digitalising Healthcare for Effective Delivery


Globally, there is a new and rapidly changing healthcare environment where digital technologies are becoming increasingly adopted in everyday delivery of healthcare. There is no doubt that technological transformation will be one of the major differentiators between successful and unsuccessful healthcare providers, and general healthcare delivery over the next decades. Even in the current coronavirus pandemic we have learnt a lot about the equipment and facilities being used such as ventilators, test kits, medical face masks and special medical beds and other accessories at laboratories and isolation centres. The testing centres and processes are also done by professionals who are proficient in digital healthcare.

Health records are essential elements for good healthcare in any healthcare providing institution. This is because quality healthcare including health records play a vital role in the planning, development and maintenance of optimal healthcare delivery.

Healthcare affects us all and digital technology has come of age in healthcare delivery. Digital healthcare refers to the delivery of health services such as consultations, diagnosis, prescriptions, treatments, laboratory tests etc through the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The design and development of digital healthcare technologies has taken place predominantly in western nations but emerging markets are adopting and adapting many of these innovations at a growing speed and increased scale. The coronavirus pandemic will certainly make a significant change for developing nations in terms of improved equipment, facilities and capacity building. This will certainly raise the possibility of a global convergence of digital healthcare capabilities.

Technological advancements have led to an increase in the number of ICT applications within the health sector. One of the ways in which ICT has contributed in healthcare is through the provision of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) .

EMR has endured beginning with computer-based patient records(CPR) , computerized medical records(CMR), computer-based patient record system(CBPR), electronic health record (HER) and automated medical record(AMR).

An Electronic Medical Record is a digital version of paper chart that contains all of a patient’s medical history. Electronic medical records have been promoted as essential to improving healthcare quality. Despite the growth of computer technology in medicine, most medical encounters in Nigeria are still documented on paper medical records.

Closely related to the term Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is Electronic Record (ER). Electronic Health Record (EHR) is seen as an official health record for an individual that is shared among multiple facilities and agencies. For this paper, the two terms are considered as same and therefore, are used interchangeably. This is because both Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) play important roles in providing a patient’s medical histories.

An electronic medical record is an electronic record of health related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one healthcare organization. It is one of the important components in hospitals or healthcare providing institutions. This is because it is available to all healthcare providers that are involved in delivering care to a patient. The Electronic Medical Record comprises a system of recording, processing, storing and transferring health information electronically. Through the EMR, several limitations that are associated with the paper-based medical record system are clearly overcome.

EMR systems co-exist with other systems in the healthcare setting. These include laboratory systems, pharmacy systems in order to promote inter-operability between systems. They permit transfer of information inside and outside of the hospital. In contrast to the paper record, electronic medical records play a larger role in medical decision making , integrating the services of various departments, customizing care to the patients, reducing medical errors, improving quality and reducing costs. In addition, the EMR can effectively help to transfer patient information from one organization to another and in this way help in referrals and improving the access to healthcare.

Implementation of electronic medical records increases the opportunityfor enhanced productivity and efficiency. The scheduling systems can greatly improve hospital and clinic efficiency and also provide more timely service for patients. It equally gives the healthcare provider instant access to other clinical records of evaluations and diagnosis tests.

The use of electronic records allows for increased security of data and enhanced patient confidentiality through controlled provider access. This is because regulations for patient record privacy places stringent demands on healthcare providers to protect patient information while implementing electronic methods for sharing with other caregivers and patients.

For the actualization of the digital healthcare in Nigeria, we recommend appropriate health policies by the government, adequate and affordable ICT equipment and facilities including manpower training and re-training. Others include constant public power supply, commitment and attitudinal change on the part of health workers, and support from relevant stakeholders in the value chain.


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