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Issue Date: February 2007

A finger on improved healthcare

6 February 2007

As healthcare services are rolled out to all South Africans, the country has been inundated with horror stories about poor services and skills resulting in sickness and even death. The good news is that healthcare is being provided to a much wider segment of the population than ever before, but the processes and procedures involved in providing these services are cracking under the strain.
"Some people think training more nurses and doctors is the solution," says Amir Lubashevsky, director of Magix Integration. "And while more professionals on the ground are important, streamlining the healthcare processes in operation in hospitals and clinics on a daily basis is more important to efficient, effective care.
Amir Lubashevsky
Amir Lubashevsky
"Current processes involve the use of handwritten charts, records and notes. This inaccurate, labour intensive procedure is prone to error in the hectic activity of today's hospitals. Moreover, files can easily be lost or handwriting misinterpreted when dispensing medication, problems which can easily cost lives."
Improving the healthcare system starts with removing these cumbersome, error-prone processes and implementing solutions that can ensure accurate, reliable and safe recordkeeping, drug dispensing and logistics within hospitals. Lubashevsky suggests integrating biometrics into hospital information systems (HIS) is the solution.
Using biometrics for identification will enable hospitals to accurately track patients from admission to discharge, ensuring the correct medications and treatment are provided. Patient records will automatically be stored digitally and be easily accessible with a simple fingerprint.
"Additionally, healthcare professionals will also use biometrics to certify their actions and instructions electronically, avoiding handwriting and missing-file problems," adds Lubashevsky. "In addition, a quick scan as people are admitted into busy theatres will ensure the right procedures are performed on the right people."
A common argument against biometrics is the cost. Hospitals that are already cash-strapped will have to buy new biometric equipment and integrate them into their current HIS - an expensive option. While the upfront costs do look intimidating, once implemented, the new systems will result in benefits that far outweigh these costs.
For a start, healthcare providers will experience decreased operating costs, more accurate patient management processes, greater returns on their IT investments, freeing up of nurses time to enable them to service more patients more efficiently, and cutting administration time in general.
On a national scale, biometric HIS solutions will drive the adoption of the integrated patient record, which will lead to better-informed doctors and consequently, improved care. To accomplish this, however, hospitals need to look beyond profit and focus on efficiency and productivity, which will result, in better patient service, an improved reputation and more customers.
"Combine this with enhanced efficiency that leads to the faster admission and discharging of patients as well as lower overall costs and the profit motive is taken care of anyway," Lubashevsky says. "And instead of making a profit at their patients' expense, hospitals will be able to meet their shareholders' financial needs while providing superior service and meeting their patients' needs as well."
For more information contact Amir Lubashevsky, Magix Integration, +27 (0)11 802 6803, amirl@magic-sa.co.za


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