WiRED Develops Custom Electronic Medical Record Software for Kenya

BY ALLISON KOZICHAROW; EDITED BY BERNICE BORN

 

Introduction

 

W

iRED International is pleased to announce the launch of an electronic medical record (EMR) system at the KUAP-Pandipieri Clinic in Kisumu, Kenya.

 

EMRs, which are rare in low-resource environments, replace paper records that are cumbersome, vulnerable to loss, and difficult to maintain. Moreover, electronic records allow instant access to a patient’s medical history, improving a clinician’s capacity to provide proper treatment.

 

Background

 

Two years ago WiRED inaugurated a field health record system in the Peruvian Amazon. WiRED Director Gary Selnow, Ph.D., said, “I described the system to the WiRED staff in Kenya, and they asked if we might be able to build a database system to accommodate patient records at their clinic. They’ve needed such a system, but couldn’t afford commercial versions that come with steep up-front costs and high ongoing subscription fees.

 

Brian Colombe Bio

 


 

Mr. Colombe lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and has worked with WiRED since 2008 providing various IT services to the organization. He holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas and brings years of expertise developing database systems for statistical data gathering. He also has experience creating database programs for small office environments.

 

Mr. Colombe said, “I am honored to collaborate with WiRED in its work to assist the clinic in Pandipieri by providing health information, and, in this case, to simplify patient health care record keeping.”

 

“I am honored to collaborate with WiRED in its work to assist the clinic in Pandipieri by providing health information, and, in this case, to simplify patient health care record keeping.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Sameer Verma Bio

 


 

Sameer Verma, Ph.D., is professor of information systems at San Francisco State University. He holds a doctorate in business administration from Georgia State University. His projects focus on edge computing, sustainable IT, and offline network architectures. He currently serves on the WiRED board of directors.

 

Dr. Verma said, “Access to information holds the key to a better future for everybody. The EMR system in Pandipieri is unique in that it provides for all that the stakeholders need, and yet it does so with very slim resources and localized network services. The system is designed for robustness against power outages and network disconnects that may otherwise incapacitate typical EMR systems.”

 

“The EMR system in Pandipieri is unique in that it provides for all that the stakeholders need, and yet it does so with very slim resources and localized network services.”

 

WiRED’s focus is health education, but all our work involves information technology (IT), so Dr. Selnow put the issue to two volunteers with a wealth of IT experience — Sameer Verma and Brian Colombe.

 

The Team

 

First, Dr. Selnow asked Brian Colombe, M.A., a former WiRED staff member and expert in Microsoft Access database development, if he would be interested in writing the program. Mr. Colombe, who has a full time job, said he would be happy to help, but that his time was limited. They decided to begin the work and see how it evolved. Writing such a complicated database program is difficult, requiring great attention to detail.

 


George Olale

About a year later, Mr. Colombe announced that he had a working prototype, which he sent to George Olale, resident IT manager at the Kisumu facility. They worked together long distance for the better part of a year to refine a database to meet the needs of the clinic, which included data reporting requirements of the Kenyan Ministry of Health.

 

As they closed in on details, Dr. Selnow contacted a WiRED board member, Sameer Verma, Ph.D., professor of information systems at San Francisco State University.
Dr. Verma had helped develop the system now used in the Peruvian Amazon by our partners at Project Amazonas. The system for Kenya presented many new challenges, but Dr. Verma said he would be happy to work on it.

 

Mr. Colombe and Dr. Verma came up with an ingenious solution. It involves the development of a database constructed around the current patient intake forms, clinician reports and other paperwork that tracks a patient through each station at the clinic. In addition to gathering the information for use in treating patients, the database instantly compiles detailed monthly reports required by local and national health officials. With the old system of paper records, that task took several staff members days to compile.

 

WiRED then brought in a Kenyan IT expert, Mike Oloo, who, over the years, has been maintaining WiRED’s computers in Kisumu. We asked if he could work with Mr. Olale to handle the hardware/software interface. He, too, agreed to join the volunteer team, and for the past several months, the four computer specialists, two teams working 10,000 miles apart, have been using email and Dropbox, to coordinate their work.

 

Installation

 


Mike Oloo

In mid-September 2018, Dr. Selnow brought the software and some hardware on his trip to Kenya. Mr. Colombe and Dr. Verma stayed by their phones in the States while Mr. Olale and Mr. Oloo began setting up the program in Kisumu.

 

Early in the installation, WiRED hit an obstacle that needed the input of the U.S.-based team. In the middle of the day in Kenya but 3 a.m. Kansas City time, Dr. Selnow phoned Mr. Colombe for help. With every right to hang up the phone at such an hour, he graciously walked the group through a few procedures. Dr. Selnow and the Kenyan team then called Dr. Verma at 6 a.m., San Francisco time. He, too, responded in the best of spirits, and for the next hour pitched in to resolve the problem.

 

“Their work, and the work of all our volunteers, is a tribute to the giving nature of so many people who donate their time and talent to help people continents away learn about good health. A heartfelt thanks to Sameer and Brian, George and Mike, not only for their work on this important project but for reminding everyone about the charitable spirit of volunteerism.”
— WiRED Director Gary Selnow, Ph.D.

With great anticipation, Mr. Olale and Mr. Oloo threw the switch on the new EMR system. It worked exactly as everyone hoped it would.

 

Dr. Selnow said, “Sameer and Brian’s work demonstrates the remarkable skills and generosity of our volunteers. Both men spent countless hours on this project over the course of two years, and they didn’t receive a penny for it. Their volunteerism exemplifies the generous spirit that makes WiRED a successful non-profit organization.

 

“Their work, and the work of all our volunteers, is a tribute to the giving nature of so many people who donate their time and talent to help people continents away learn about good health. A heartfelt thanks to Sameer and Brian, George and Mike, not only for their work on this important project but for reminding everyone about the charitable spirit of volunteerism.”

 

 


What is an EMR and what does it do?

 

An electronic medical record (sometimes called an electronic health record) allows medical professionals to provide higher quality and safer care for patients while creating tangible enhancements for a health facility or organization. EMRs help providers better manage care for patients and offer better health care by:

  • Providing accurate, up-to-date, and complete information about patients at the point of care
  • Enabling quick access to patient records for more coordinated, efficient care
  • Securely sharing electronic information with patients and other clinicians
  • Helping providers more effectively diagnose patients, reduce medical errors, and provide safer care
  • Improving patient and provider interaction and communication, as well as health care convenience
  • Enabling safer, more reliable prescribing
  • Helping promote legible, complete documentation and accurate, streamlined coding and billing
  • Enhancing the privacy and security of patient data
  • Helping providers improve productivity and work-life balance
  • Enabling providers to improve efficiency and meet their business goals
  • Reducing costs through decreased paperwork, improved safety, reduced duplication of testing, and improved health.

Source: HealthIT.gov

 

 

 

 

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