MADRID, Spain – Health care information systems in most developing countries are still analogous and inaccurate. Ethiopia is no exception to this rule. Ethiopian health facilities at almost all levels use a manual, paper-based patient management system for services such as maintaining patient records and exchanging health information. In a country of over 115 million people, this outdated system has made the provision of high-quality health care a daunting task. This rings true especially in remote areas of the country.
Manual Health Information Systems (SIS)
Health information systems are all systems that capture, store, manage or transmit information relating to the health of individuals or to the activities of an organization related to the health sector. Overall, a well-functioning HIS is essential for sound decision-making and for providing the public with an effective health system. This type of paper-based system, currently in use in Ethiopia, is incredibly cumbersome for both the patient and the hospital health staff.
The main problems associated with this manual system are as follows.
- Storage space for cards is limited.
- The system is not secure. Unauthorized personnel can access any medical card and vital patient information as it is not securely filed.
- That takes time. Completing these forms is a waste of time that patients might need. Also, the “card must pass from the clerk to the doctor and then to the dispensary”.
Additional problems remain today. These include redundant information, lost patient data, human error, a limited ability to include relevant information, and the need to schedule appointments for patients who live in remote areas and have to travel hundreds of miles. kilometers to get to the medical center. These issues have had a significant impact on the quality of local health care and the development of the health sector in Ethiopia. They have also hampered the country’s path to adopting the technology for its applications in healthcare facilities.
Then Dr Wuleta Lemma entered the scene. After obtaining her “degrees in medicine, epidemiology and international health” in the United States, she returned home to Ethiopia. She found that health care information systems in her country were still disjointed and outdated. Disturbed by the situation, she decided to design something, that’s how TenaCare was born.
The work of TenaCare
“TenaCare is a series of national eHealth and mHealth applications” consisting of an electronic medical record system, a health management information system and disease surveillance and an analytical dashboard that work together to improve the quality of health service delivery. This new digital healthcare system enables healthcare facilities to capture, store, analyze and communicate patient information in digital form.
Plus, healthcare workers can access real-time data, enabling them to make better, faster, and evidence-based decisions. Successfully, TenaCare has developed an electronic medical records (EMR) system ready to move away from the paper system and provide automated summary registers and other statistical analysis reports that will enable big data analysis, saving countless minutes and helping medical institutions to improve and measure quality of clinical services.
Most importantly, TenaCare works both online and offline. This makes the system accessible to both urban and rural hospitals, ensuring that even the most remote clinics without permanent internet access will be able to take advantage of the applications. In the words of Dr Wuleta, his priority in deploying this solution has been to “get it into rural last mile clinics”. Its main objective is to ensure that all Ethiopian citizens have adequate access to health care. Thus, medical clinics can collect patient data even offline. Once back online, “the information will synchronize with the central database” and generate medical reports.
What made it possible
One thing that made TenaCare possible was the cooperation with partners. The Tulane University Center for Global Health Equity (CGHE) created the suite system, for example. Tulane “notably supports local colleges and universities”. It trains thousands of students in the field of health information and plays an important role in building local capacity for IT innovation capable of transforming Ethiopia.
Additionally, the technology behind TenaCare was developed in partnership with Microsoft’s 4Africa initiative. The initiative aims to unleash and accelerate Africa’s potential to create technologies for the continent and the entire world. Nonetheless, Dr Wuleta has made it clear that she intends to keep TenaCare fully managed locally. So far, it has achieved its wishes by ensuring a 100% locally managed system. TenaCare is “currently in use in 3,000 facilities in 10 regions of Ethiopia”. It “handles over 150 million health records”.
Improving healthcare globally
Now it’s time for TenaCare to take over the world, which should be easier thanks to an increasingly connected Africa. Healthtech is booming across the continent. Startups like TenaCare are using technology solutions to address the challenges of delivering high-quality healthcare to everyone, including in resource-poor areas. With TenaCare, communication between doctors and patients is more efficient, information is more reliable, easier, faster and more precise. Although Dr Wuleta acknowledges that her vision has not yet reached 100%, she is confident in the potential of TenaCare to meet the needs of people in her home country.
Without a doubt, the successful implementation of the system so far proves the significant impact of his initiative on the quality of local and digital healthcare in Ethiopia. In fact, if TenaCare has clarified anything, it’s that supporting the growth of an inclusive health technology sector that addresses broader public health issues is essential for the future.
– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno