“First, do no harm.”

Hospital automation in Pakistan is a win for all

 

“If anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.”

Surah 5 verse 32, the Holy Quran

 

With an exploding population and limited resources, Pakistan’s hospitals are fighting a difficult battle. Pakistani hospitals are struggling to provide basic care, and hygiene, while health care systems in other countries are being revolutionised by technology. Manual errors are frequent, slow availability of data leads to poor (life or death) decisions. These issues, coupled with a lack of transparency lead to poor patient care.  While the US and the west are moving to revolutionise health care using technology, Pakistan continues to lag behind not only the west, but also India and the Middle East.

There is a solution – automation of hospitals – turn Pakistani hospitals into paperless institutions, which not only improves flow of information, but also adds transparency, and reduces costs. Automation helps make the hospitals more efficient, bringing down costs.  At the same time, it speeds up information flow which allows for better decisions.

Shaukut 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.

There is no margin for errors or mistakes in patient diagnosis as human life is at stake.  Unfortunately, incorrect diagnoses occur in Pakistan. A frequent cause is lack of availability of patient histories, and lab results.  Hospital automation makes patient histories and lab results instantly available. In future, specialised physicians and computerised tools could be used as tools by the doctors to corroborate the diagnosis.

In addition, an automated hospital significantly improves the management of resources, and medical supplies. Pakistani hospitals face a significant loss due to theft and manual errors.

Medication availability and dispensation 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 very poor and frequently results in the medication not being available or incorrect medicine being administered. Automated hospitals, implement a sophisticated inventory control mechanism, medicines are tracked from purchase to dispensation. They are dispensed automatically – thus minimising administration of wrong medicine.

Laboratory equipment is computerised, imaging and scanning machines already provide digitised output; more and more medical equipment is expected to be computerised in the future. Technology is needed in laboratories to remain competitive. Since the data is provided electronically, automated hospitals take advantage of this to make results instantly available.

Hospital automation can lead to significant savings in cost, by computerising manual processes and saving costs of paper, storage, and printing supplies. Because of efficiencies introduced by automation hospitals are better able to utilise their medical staff.  Typically, a Pakistani hospital can recover its investment in the system within 1-3 years, depending upon cost of system.

In addition, automated hospitals can increase the reach of its services by offering remote consultations, whereby physicians and specialists physically in their office are able to consult with a remote patient.  This not only provides remote areas access to healthcare, but also increases the income stream for the hospital, as remote consultations are not as expensive as in-person consultations.

In conclusion, everyone wins with an automated hospital system in Pakistan.

Patients win with the improved quality of care, access to their information, better communication with the doctor, and transparency in the hospitals.  Rural patients win as they gain access to health care through remote consultations.

The hospital wins because of cost savings and efficiencies introduced by automation, which creates better inventory control and also enables them to scale to a larger patient population.

Doctors and nurses win as manual paperwork is offloaded to the computers and they are free to focus on medical care. In the long term they can benefit from advances in technology to reduce human error.

The IT industry wins as it gains a local customer base, which provides the revenue necessary to invest in artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is the next frontier for technology, and by investing in this technology Pakistani IT firms can catch up and compete with the major players in the IT industry.

Pakistan wins if its healthcare and IT industries flourish, providing better care and more jobs for its growing population.

 

Faisal Haque, currently CEO of Imperialsoft, has worked in the Silicon Valley for over 30 years with companies such as Intel, Cisco and Qualcomm. http://www.imperialsoft.com.pk/



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