Mobile Mawokota: Project Updates

On Tuesday, I met with the current Mudumma center record-keeper, Annet Babirye, to introduce her to PatientView, the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.  The program is so simple and intuitive to use that only one day was allocated to training a staff member how to do so.  When I arrived at the center, however, I discovered that she had never used a computer before.  I could tell this was going to take a lot longer than expected. 

Our first lesson?  How to open the laptop.
From there we practiced turning on the computer, using the mouse pad, and typing.  It was humbling to watch her take two full minutes to move the pointer across the screen.  Annet proved a determined learner, however, and slowly began to pick up these skills.  Two days and a few delicious meals of beans and matooke later, she was able to successfully start PatientView, add a new patient, and submit patient forms.  I was so proud of her.  For someone who knew the basics of using a computer, this would have taken approximately an hour, but she trekked through the lessons for three days with patience and spirit.

Annet’s first time using a computer 

Everyday, she would thank me.  “This program has so much potential to improve our records so much,” she gushed.  “Thank you for helping me to use it.”  Her gratitude was echoed by thirteen VHTs with whom I met last week in a discussion about VHT-related transportation and record keeping issues.  My aim with the focus group was to determine the feasibility of incorporating a program such as Medic Mobile into the local health system.  Here were some of their thoughts:

VHT focus group discussion
The discussion began with a report written by the VHTs and read by their coordinator.  Mid-way through the report, he mentioned transportation, explaining that, “When we need to report news to the center, we have problems with transport.  Sometimes a bicycle is available, but it’s still not a very short time to ride.  Often we are forced to walk to the hospital to report.  We come for many miles and on foot!  Some live here, but most of us live far away.”

According to the VHTs, it takes them approximately 2 hours to walk each way, 50 minutes if they are on a bicycle, and 25 if they take a boda-boda.  A boda-boda ride, however, costs round-trip upwards of 20,000 UGX, or $8.  A quality restaurant meal can run you 2,000 UGX (less than a dollar).

Reasons cited for visiting the center included “following up on a patient” and obtaining “advice from [a] doctor”.

When asked about the possibility of sending reports to the health center via SMS, the VHTs universally responded with nods.  “Yes, this is so good!” one exclaimed.

I could tell they were excited about the prospects.  What is even more exciting is the fact that out of the thirteen, nine of the VHTs already owned cell phones which would be compatible with the Medic Mobile program.  That is, almost 70% of the group questioned do not even need to be given a new cell phone.

Even the doctor seemed keen.  “This sounds like it can fill in some gaps.  We lose a lot of patients here.  They come once and have disease and never return and we have no way of finding them again.  This way they can be tracked and helped more easily.”

Though the prospects are exciting, Annet and I still have at least three more days of training ahead of us before we can begin to use the EMR system in the health center.  In order to write an novel, one must first learn the alphabet.  

In the meantime, I am thrilled with what my research has so far shown.  Mawokota north, and the Mudumma Health Center III in particular, is especially ripe for a program like Medic Mobile’s, and the VHTs here seem more than willing and eager to incorporate it into their future routine.
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