Hospitals in Pakistan are overwhelmed by exploding patient populations, lack of resources, and critical care training. Manual errors are frequent, slow availability of patient lab results, doctors and nurses are confounded with slow paper based information retrieval, and misplaced patient histories lead to poor diagnosis, which can lead to bad (life or death) decisions. These issues, coupled with a lack of transparency lead to poor patient care.
While the US and other western countries are moving to tools such as IBM’s Watson, which can diagnose the health problem based on symptoms and labs, Pakistan struggles with basic patient care.
The country’s burgeoning IT industry has a solution – automation of hospitals by turning hospitals into paperless institutions, which not only improves flow of information, but also adds transparency. Automation also helps make hospitals more efficient. It allows information to be processed through computerized diagnostics, which can corroborate a physician’s diagnosis.
Shaukat Khanum, Indus hospital, Agha Khan hospital, and Fatima Memorial hospital all have automated their management systems and as a result have greatly improved information flow, overall efficiency and patient care.
Patient care can be measured by the following:
- Accuracy of Diagnosis
- Quality of Labs
There is no margin for errors or mistakes in patient diagnosis. Decisions must be made, based on facts. No hunches or gut feelings are allowed. Why? Because human life is at stake. Unfortunately, incorrect diagnoses occur frequently in Pakistan. A recurring cause is lack of availability of patient histories, lab results and poor training. Hospital automation makes patient histories and lab results instantly available. In future, specialized physicians and computerized diagnosis tools could instantly provide a corroboration of the diagnosis. Since all the information is available online, the patient can very quickly get second opinions, which can greatly increase the confidence in the diagnosis while providing a great tool for physicians to be able to consult with more specialized colleagues.
The table below shows the difference in availability of information between an automated hospital and a non-automated hospital.
Medication availability and dispensation are critical for a patient’s health and impacts patient care greatly. In non-automated hospitals, inventory of medicines is manually tracked and subject to human error. Inventory control as a result is poor and frequently results in the medication not being available or incorrect medicine being administered. Automated hospitals, implement a sophisticated inventory control mechanism where medicines are tracked from purchase to dispensation. They can also be dispensed automatically, by the in-house pharmacy, using automated label printing to guide the medical staff. Thus, avoiding wrong medicine being dispensed to the patient.
In general, laboratory equipment is heavily computerized. The images from X-ray or MRI machine are stored digitally. The application of technology in today’s laboratories is required to achieve timely progress and remain competitive. Since the data is provided electronically, it does not make sense to print it out and store in paper files and then provide it to doctors. An automated hospital system can take advantage of the computerization of the lab equipment and make results instantly accessible to the doctor or patient.
Hospital automation systems can greatly improve patient care and introduce transparency and efficiency into the complex operations of the hospital. Hospitals in Pakistan will need to shift to automation if they are to keep pace with industry practices, computerization of equipment and enable more advanced diagnostic capabilities. In addition, the introduction of automation to hospitals has shown to reduce costs significantly. In the author’s opinion hospital automation is the need of the hour for hospitals in Pakistan. It is a win for the patients, the hospitals, and most importantly for Pakistan.
About the Author
Faisal Haque is the CEO of Imperial Soft (Pvt.) Ltd., a company that provides software solutions for medical, educational, and industrial markets. He has worked in the Silicon Valley for over 30 years with companies such as Intel, Cisco and Qualcomm. He has also authored two best-selling books in the field of chip design.