Checkup on hospital IT-A A +A
Sunday, June 17, 2012
HOSPITALS may house or aspire to own the latest technology in treatment, but few have integrated computer systems that may mean something as mundane as a shorter time at the billing section or as dramatic as preventing a fatal allergic reaction.
In a dialogue on the benefits of information technology (IT) in the medical field, officials of Cebu hospitals agreed with IT solutions providers that having an integrated automation system would not only make the operations of medical institutions more efficient, it would also save lives.
Accounting and IT officers of four Cebu City hospitals said the financial aspect—including billing statements for patients—of their hospitals’ operations are “computerized” but many units continue to manually input patients’ data.
Jerry Rapes, chief executive officer of IT solutions developer Exist, said a database showing a patient’s medical history, accessible at the emergency unit of a hospital, is one way to avoid fatal mistakes and help medical practitioners provide the right treatment.
“A patient may arrive at the ER (emergency room) unconscious, so there’s no way to get accurate information unless the medical staff is able to access a database with the medical history of the patient,” he said.
Dr. Mike Muin, chief information officer of the Medical City, said computerization also enables hospital administrators to plan and develop more services.
“Informatics also allows hospitals to make the pie bigger” by developing services, like wellness programs, he said during the dialogue.
Muin said integrating medical informatics will address many issues faced by Philippine hospitals, such as voluminous paperwork and files, countless of forms to fill up and store, re-encoding across systems, errors, and difficulties in tracking and retrieving records.
Leo Querubin of Media Gateway, publisher of Computerworld and PC World, noted that some doctors and medical personnel can be stubborn about using new technology.
Muin said the IT team at the Medical City got the cooperation of medical staff by training them on the use of automated systems and informatics. He added that the hospital will also train doctors on medical informatics to get them involved in the process.
IT experts, however, warned hospital officials against vendor lock-in.
Since some hospitals do not have IT units or have only a few IT personnel, they opt to outsource development of IT solutions. While this is not wrong, problems arise when solutions providers continue to control data management of their hospital-clients.
Systems that involve licensed software or applications may also bring additional costs for hospitals when they renew the licenses later on.
A Cebu City hospital faced difficulties when its software has problems because its provider is Manila-based. The Manila-based solutions provider also charges additional fees to train hospital personnel on the use of the software.
Rapes said that Exist developed Medcurial, a minimum viable product (MVP) that allows a medical institution to become automated, in the hope of addressing these concerns.
Medcurial runs on an open architecture and is offered by Exist in alpha status, meaning it can be used by participating medical facilities for free, provided they give regular feedback to the developer (Exist) for further improvement of the product.
Rapes said the good thing with MVP is that it contains all the necessary features needed by the user to run operations. Many licensed software, on the other hand, have several features that are not necessary.
Willex Perez of Exist Software Labs said the Medcurial interface is similar to those of social networks, so it is easy to use.
It is developed together with medical informatics experts and enables users to organize doctors’ appointments, patients’ medical information, and billing and credit.
It can be accessed anywhere and anytime.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 18, 2012.