NEW YORK, NY – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) today announced that it is testing and plans to deploy electronic medical records in the fight against Ebola.
IRC teams in West Africa currently are preparing and testing the technology, which is aimed at improving Ebola patients’ care, clinicians’ decision-making, staff safety, and learning for possible future outbreaks. EMRs also will enable the IRC to systematically document the quality of care if provides to patients.
Maintaining health records in an Ebola Treatment Unit is complex:
• The wet zone is sanitized several times a day with high
concentrated chlorine, and no materials can leave the wet zone, and
• Health care workers dressed in personal protective equipment have reduced time with patients due to the heat, which means written records are hard to keep.
In addition, records from past outbreaks are virtually non-existent, having been incinerated to prevent infection.
Recognizing the challenges and shortcomings of the system, the IRC put information technology, data, business development and medical teams to work to build an approach that improves the quality and efficiency of care. The result is a system that has the potential to dramatically alter the Ebola response in West Africa and which can pave the way for use of electronic health systems in sub-Saharan Africa generally.
For example, stakeholders will be able to find out in real-time how many patients are seen a day, what percentage of the patients test positive for the Ebola virus, the condition of patients when they arrive, survival rate and which treatments were provided to discharged patients. Instead of an unwieldy process of data collection, all Liberian Ministry of Health forms will be completed automatically with data collected through the EMR – this includes daily updates, contact tracing, and case investigation forms.
In addition, the system will help providers make evidence-based decisions by reminding the provider of proper choices of medicines for certain conditions and dosing.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC said: “The information provided by electronic medical records significantly increases the power and potential we have to fight Ebola and improve care for its victims. EMRs are a potential game-changer, providing us with critical information for the response and important data that can be used during future health emergencies. The fight against Ebola is far from won, and now is the time to redouble our efforts.”