[First published October 2013]

The use of IT in health services is transforming the lives of thousands of people living in disadvantaged communities within the Western Cape and there are plans to expand and build on these services in South Africa.

That’s according to a spokesperson for CMM, the leading health tech specialist that has successfully deployed their systems in over 30 hospitals throughout the Western Cape Province.

System C’s industry leading software is being used to unite healthcare service delivery in SA’s second largest economic province by managing the hospitals’ pharmacy stocks and services electronically, including at Cape Town‘s newly opened Khayelitsha District Hospital.

This R632‐million facility opened in April 2012, has 240 beds and provides quality healthcare to up to 1.5 million patients in the Khayelitsha area.

During the hospital’s official opening, Western Cape Premier Hellen Zille described it as one of the best public health institutions in Africa.

Stressing Khayelitsha hospital’s significance in advancing redress and promoting equity, Zille said part of the hospital’s purpose was “to overcome the legacy of the country’s tragic past where there had been inequitable access to quality health services across society.”

Moving away from paper-based systems

System C in conjunction with their South African distributor, Health System Technologies (HST), has recently deployed the Pharmacy Management and Stock Control components of their system at the Khayelitsha District Hospital.

Lead Implementation Pharmacist at HST, Eden Stanich, says that the move away from paper‐ based systems towards IT driven pharmacy services for hospitals in the Western Cape began in February 1999. It was then that the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s Department of Health awarded a contract to WellSky and HST for the first dispensing and inventory management systems at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital.

Stanich adds that after many years of successful operation at the Cape Town’s academic facilities, HST was awarded the tender in 2007 to implement System C’s systems in various public hospitals across the entire province.

“The technology is working very well in all these hospitals, including the larger provincial hospitals such as George and Paarl Hospitals, both of which went live this year,” Stanich says.

Huge step for SA healthcare

System C’s CEO Nick Wilson says a key advantage for hospitals using its systems is that it streamlines key pharmacy processes, making service delivery faster for hospital staff and safer for patients.

Because the 30 plus systems implemented so far are all linked to each other, Tysall‐Blay notes that South Africa has taken a huge step forward “because this is the country’s first regional‐ scale deployment of an interconnected hospital pharmacy system. Technology like this makes a real difference to patients who now have faster access to their medicines, improved continuity of care and better clinical management of their medication.”

System C’s system is due to be deployed to a further 10 sites in order to complete the company’s target of a full roll out to 40 facilities throughout the province.

“Efficient management of medicines is as central to the quality of healthcare as the medicines themselves. Our system lets patients move easily between hospitals because pharmacy records are available at all the linked hospitals. In addition, pharmacists are able to manage drug stocks better and speed up the dispensing process,” explains Tysall‐Blay.

Pharmacists who have worked on the system at the Khayelitsha District Hospital commented that they are now able to maintain better control over financial and workflow processes, as well as access drug information more easily ‐ amounting to safer drug‐related decisions for patients.

Another key benefit for the Khayelitsha District Hospital has been the ability to link the WellSky system to its other IT systems, specifically HST’s Clinicom Patient Administration System (PAS) which is used to electronically maintain detailed patient information across various hospital wards and specialties.

HST’s Eden Stanich comments that because System C systems are able to interface with the PAS system, pharmacists benefit significantly by the availability of patient demographic information; saving them time and eliminating the need to capture the same information in multiple systems.

In South Africa’s public healthcare system, previously dogged by inefficiencies and endless queues, IT systems such as these may also help to alleviate the lengthy waiting times which Khayelitsha Hospital CEO, Dr Anwar Kharwa, publicly noted as one of the major reasons for dissatisfaction with public hospitals and community health centres.

Future holds promise

With over 20 years’ specialist experience, System C systems operate in over half of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the company continues to focus on developing modern medicines management systems. At the end 2011, Northern Ireland followed in South Africa’s footsteps by signing a contract to install a similar interconnected system across all its hospitals.

The next step for the hospitals that have System C’s pharmacy management system installed would be to extend the reach of these systems by adding clinical tools such as electronic prescribing for doctors and administration support for nurses. According to Jonathan Mills, System C’s representative for South Africa, e‐prescribing connects doctors directly to hospital pharmacies from by the patient’s bedside. He adds that supporting nurses while they administer the medicines and enabling pharmacists to immediately review and verify important clinical information will speed up medicine processes even further.

“Another huge plus of e‐prescribing is that it has the clinical support tools to help prevent adverse drug and allergy interactions and also improves patient safety by eliminating the need to clarify prescriptions that may be incomplete or illegible,” Mills comments.

The future of healthcare in South Africa will continue to expand through the adoption of modern technology while the infrastructure needed to support these systems is being incorporated into the planning of new hospitals and existing hospitals are upgrading their facilities countrywide. With multi‐location, medicines management systems playing their part in delivering faster and safer healthcare, it undoubtedly means a win‐win situation for hospitals, pharmacists and millions of patients in South Africa.

Key Business Benefits Delivered by the Regional Solution:

  • A single patient record for each patient across the Western Cape, allowing the patient care record to be viewed irrespective of the treatment centre. Improved patient outcomes, Reduced cost of errors.
  • A single patient record promotes patient safety for all patients allowing clinical review of history at time of dispensing. Reduced incidence of dispensing errors.
  • A single patient record supporting the reduction in professional patients by allowing previous treatment history to be reviewed, reducing unnecessary expenditure on high cost medicines.
  • Streamlining repeat prescriptions and allowing compliance monitoring for chronic illness, HIV and patients on complex treatments.
  • Provision of a single drug catalogue across the region which incorporates local and regional control over medicines, with in-built formulary management functionality to support compliance with Provincial Code List and Treatment Guidelines.
  • Supply-chain management and control through regional purchasing contracts supporting cost monitoring of procurement.
  • Promotion of rational drug use through a single drug catalogue utilised by all stakeholders and managed from a central point.
  • Better ability to monitor stock levels across the region, providing improved inventory control, reduction in overall stockholding, and reduction in shrinkage.
  • Centralised reporting at individual hospital or regional level assisting in planning and costs as well as financial audit and clinical review.
  • The ability to identify stocks of critical medicines in an emergency across the province.
  • A financially accountable solution providing closed-loop medicines management to support financial reconciliation.
  • Less requirement for local system management resulting in reduced system management man power.
  • Less training of pharmacy staff required as the system is used in all facilities.
  • Ability to negotiate for favourable rates with suppliers supporting reduced lifetime costs.
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