Small Investments in Infrastructure Lead to Better Care
When one thinks of health information technology (IT) — one may also think of high costs, specialized equipment and infrastructure development. However, large financial investments in health IT are not always necessary to improve clinical care efficiency. In the absence of a laptop, internet and modem, the St. Monica health facility in Migori County relied on paper-based mail to get viral load results for its patients. This led to delays in getting timely and critical information in the hands of the clinicians for decision-making and challenges with reviewing aggregate data at the facility level, which ultimately compromised the quality of care.
Through the support of PEPFARExternal funding, the St. Monica health facility purchased a $200 laptop, a $30 modem and a monthly $10 data bundle. These investments allow staff to log into the national viral load website and download laboratory results in real-time. Laboratory staff receive text messages seven days a week that results are ready for retrieval. With these improvements:
- Samples tracking was simplified,
- Samples and results are easily matched,
- Efficiency improved by decreasing the number of staff involved, and
- Results are imported into patients’ electronic medical records (where available).
It used to take up to 21 days to receive viral load and early infant diagnosis results, but now the turn-around-time is 3 to 5 days — a four-fold reduction. As demonstrated at St. Monica, small investments in infrastructure can have a big impact, thereby supporting timely and clinical decision making and ultimately patient outcomes.