Digital healthcare

The Kingdom of Jordan is in the midst of a healthcare revolution. Spearheaded by His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision to transform medical services in the country, non-profit agency Electronic Healthcare Services called on Dell Services to help it implement a digital patient and electronic healthcare record system.

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Digital healthcare
By  Ben Furfie Published  October 18, 2010

The Kingdom of Jordan is in the midst of a healthcare revolution. Spearheaded by His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision to transform medical services in the country, non-profit agency Electronic Healthcare Services called on Dell Services to help it implement a digital patient and electronic healthcare record system.

“It’s not about being first, it’s about doing it properly, first time.” It’s not a sentiment you often hear from an industry which prides itself on firsts; first to implement, first to deploy, first to gain some meaningful ROI. However, as the person in charge of shaping the future of the Kingdom of Jordan’s healthcare IT infrastructure, Ghassan Al-Lahham is in no hurry to be the first.

“Far too many people rush into these things and they subsequently fail,” says the chief executive of Electronic Health Solutions, the agency behind the Kingdom’s fledging integrated IT system. “It is an essential step to improve the Jordanian healthcare system.”

The programme, called Hakeem, was officially launched in October 2009, and the first site is scheduled to go live February with the other two sites due to go live later in the year. The main purpose behind the plan is to create an effective, integrated national healthcare infrastructure settled on a single software platform, that will improve the system.

That platform, a heavily modified version of the open source electronic healthcare record (EHR) system VistA, has been used in the United States by the Department for Veteran Services and is in use at over 50% of hospitals that have full EHR systems. The length of time the system had been in use for was one of the deciding factors behind Jordan’s adoption of the platform. “It is more important for us to have confidence in the system we’re using than it is for it to be the latest piece of technology.

“The main objective of the new system is to help ensure patient safety,” he reveals. “If we have all patients digitised, then when they come into the hospital or see a physician, they can have all their details pulled up immediately – there is no need to go through a paper filing system – if the patient has an allergy to a medicine, they can know straight away. If we have to worry about issues with the software, then we’re not achieving our goals.”

The computerised patient record system also has a number of other supplementary benefits, explains Al-Lahham. “Though the main purpose of Hakeem is to help ensure the safety of all patients in Jordan’s public healthcare system, the platform has additional benefits,” reveals Al-Lahham. “One major one is the ability to cut down on wastage of medical supplies. For example, one hospital has a supply of one medicine which is close to its use-by date. In the past, that medicine would have gone to waste. Now with Hakeem, we will be able to see that another hospital is in dire need of that same medicine and send it to them. It cuts down on both wastage and duplication of supplies.

“Our investigations found that the health system was suffering from $70m in wastage and duplication – this system will prevent that,” adds Al-Lahham.

One of the major benefits of starting a project like this now, argues Al-Lahham is that it can not only learn from best practice, but also see where other ambitious systems went wrong. “It isn’t about who finishes first, it’s about who does it best,” he reiterates.

“We’re coming from a Greenfield situation – it means we can avoid a lot of the issues that legacy hardware and software caused for some of the other major implementations around the world – in particular, those that have had their systems digitised for some time now.”

In addition to rolling out the system’s infrastructure, Dell Services worked closely with EHS to ensure that the system continued to comply with the initial brief. The company worked hard to ensure that all users had access to a comprehensive training programme, a roadmap for where the system is going and the sharing of best practices between Dell’s in-house experts and members of the IT team that will handle the day-to-day operation of Hakeem once Dell Services completes the implementation.

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