The first step of digitization of the City Garden Clinic

Since October 2020  Dr. Anne Driessen and her husband Remi Alkemade are in the City Garden Clinic, where Dr. Anne supports Dr. ABD with all medical activities and Remi, besides his other work, started to digitize the City Garden Clinic.

Dr. ABD expressed already a long time to digitize the patient records. Currently, all patient records are kept on paper. Paper folders are handed from person to person, paper slips with lab orders and results are passed around, everything on paper. Almost as if the only reason for any computer to be used is to print the paper forms the hospital employees write on. Then, all the patient records are stored in the ‘archive’ cupboards in the entrance hall.

To be well prepared and understand what the challenges are for implementing a digitized patient records system Remi and Dr. Anne visited Partners in Health (an American NGO) in the Wellbody Clinic in Koidu, just 2 hours from Makeni, as this hospital had developed and implemented an EMR system. They had completely digitized their paper system and were using patient cards and bar code scanners. Everyone at the clinic had gone through basic computer training, and special EMR training. Their biggest challenge had been to get a constant power supply (now running on two generators and batteries), and stable local network throughout the clinic compound. Remi learned quite some bits about the challenges of implementing electronic medical records in a place like this.

Back in Makeni Remi is developing a plan to develop, implement and maintain the ERP and started with basic computer training for the staff. Remi told us “About 90% of the staff has never touched a computer before, so there is much to gain there. The training will also be necessary if the hospital is to use an EMR in the future. Not all of the staff will have to work with computers (e.g. cleaners and security), but I want to give everyone here the opportunity to gain a new useful skill at no cost”.

Remi started teaching over 60 Sierra Leoneans how to move a cursor across a screen, type on the keyboard, and press two buttons at the same time. Remi stated “They are all eager to ‘learn the computah’; some of them even show up at every class hoping they can join the same lesson again and get more practice – I cannot complain about their attitude. And, as they say: no problem, this is Africa, we’ll manage”.