E-records to ensure better healthcare, cost reduction

By: Hasan Kamoonpuri

MUSCAT: The revamped National Electronic Health Record (NEHR), which is linked to patients’ files in all Ministry of Health institutions with an unified civil number, holds out huge benefits for the nation. Patients can access their medical history, data and clinical information at anytime from anywhere, according to Abdullah al Raqadi, Director General of Information Technology at the Ministry of Health.

NEHR (Al Shifa system) is a huge step forward as it allows a greater and more seamless flow of information within the Sultanate’s digital health care infrastructure, created by electronic health records (EHRs). This will go a long way in transforming the way health care is delivered. With more patient information, physicians can make better and well-informed treatment decisions quickly and safely.

E-health records place accurate and complete information about patients’ health and medical history at physicians’ fingertips. In addition to easier access to follow-up care with specialists, the E-health record has other features such as the convenience of sending e-prescriptions electronically to pharmacy and electronic referrals.

Citizens will get easier access to their medical records and be at less risk of treatment and prescription blunders under the revamped e-health system, say experts. The new revamped E-health record (NEHR) launched on Sunday builds upon the existing Al Shifa system.

Experts believe once the system is fully operational, the ministry would also benefit from reduced expenses through a reduction in diagnosis, treatment and prescription errors, and unnecessary duplication of procedures such as blood tests and X-rays.

Some people who have regular visits to hospitals with their family members told the Observer that they recognise the benefits of having their family’s personal health information safely stored and accessible to healthcare providers.

In the case of allergy or medicine interactions, having fast access to critical health data could be a matter of life or death, especially during emergencies.

Significantly, all the government healthcare institutions have adopted e-health. Doctors, paramedics, patients, IT experts hailed the Ministry of Health’s e-health push

As the healthcare gets more and more tech-savvy, all stakeholders have a lot to gain in many respects.

In an exclusive interview with Oman Observer, Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, the Minister of Health, said “The ministry has taken a strategic decision to adopt Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all the healthcare processes since the middle of the 1990s”.

He said “all the processes, starting with patients’ registration, clinical documentation, investigations ordering and results reporting, medication prescription to dispensing, nursing orders, operation’s note, discharge summary, are all performed using IT. All the software available that can improve health care activities are being used.

For instance, the SMS is used to inform patients about their appointment and reminding them 24 hours before.

This has tremendously reduced the number patients who fail to turn up for check up or treatment.”

The ICT system has facilitated easy retrieval of patients’ records and patients’ movements from one department to another including different clinics, laboratory and radiological services and even the pharmacy.

Electronic records has made remarkable improvements in, and has ensured continuity of, care of patients by making clinical information readily available to different clinicians in different departments and specialties dealing with the same patient.

The Ministry of Health has introduced electronic imaging, in its various institutions. The radiology department processes, from capturing the image from modalities to reporting are electronic and clinicians can review all patients’ information electronically.

Study is being conducted to determine the feasibility of capturing ultrasound images electronically in the Primary Health Care, said the minister.

The e-Referral Engine is in place and has the objective to facilitate patients’ referral from one level of care to another and from one health care facility to another.

It has enhanced continuity of care of patients through and has ensured that back-referral notes from referred institutions reach back to the referring health care facilities.


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