Imagine a village so remote it takes eight days to walk to the nearest road. If a villager falls ill—a young mother with complications during childbirth, a man with a respiratory infection, or a malnourished child suffering from diarrhea—getting to hospital is not an option. The medical staff must come to the village.
Working in Nepal’s most remote and resource-poor Himalayan mountain villages, a brave team of 17 health
workers employed by the NGO, PHASE Worldwide (Practical Help Achieving Self Empowerment) do exactly that. Since 2006, PHASE medics have treated more than 140,000 patients and, on average, each of its health workers saves one child’s life a month—staggering figures that can’t be claimed by many other organizations.
There are PHASE health posts in 11 Himalayan hilltop communities. HP added support by donating 12 notebook computers, one for each health post, and an additional notebook for central patient record storage at the PHASE Nepal headquarters in Kathmandu.
Health workers use the HP notebooks to record diagnoses, research and prescribe medicines, register and review patient histories, and compile monthly reports that are used as a learning resource. Although some of the workers had little computer experience, they now find it easy to operate the highly intuitive computerized patient record system. It was custom developed for PHASE by students at Sheffield University, UK, and field tested by medical volunteers and PHASE staff.
Unusual challenges In addition to difficult terrain and climate, and scant resources, PHASE dealt with some unusual technology challenges. In designing an effective patient record system, it was important to allow for many different people sharing the same name—this is quite typical in Nepal’s hilltop communities.
In addition to developing a specialized patient record system, the power supply at each remote health post is erratic, so each notebook requires a backup battery. Better still, in case a power station goes offline—which can cause a two- or three-week electricity blackout—each health post needs a solar charger.
Although this new patient record system is still in its pilot phase, health workers have already reported several key benefits:
- Comfortable and fast patient registration
- Simpler to find patients who are making return visits
- Easier to differentiate patients with the same name
- Straightforward data backup to USB drive, and transfer to the PHASE Kathmandu office
- Well-managed and detailed record-keeping system
- Effective drug stock management
- Fast preparation of monthly/quarterly reports (two to three days less per health post than before)
Future plans include expanding the system to serve additional health posts, sharing these electronic medical records with other organizations, and—in collaboration with the Nepali government—potentially rolling out this system across the nation.