Digitization of IITB Hospital Records

Hospital, IIT Bombay

Often caught up in the hassles of finding your medical records in the hospital? Ever worried about your private medical records just floating about in public? When the issue was raised with InsIghT, we jumped right in to find if there was a better way.

Medical records can give out a lot of information about a person; details protected under doctor-patient confidentiality that many would not be comfortable with others finding out. The present system where someone can walk in and access anyone else’s files is hugely detrimental to privacy and confidentiality. Besides, wouldn’t it be easier for both students and the hospital staff if all you needed was your ID card and all the records along with prescriptions were completely digitized?

We set out to find what it would take to completely digitize IITB Hospital. Our first stop was the administrative department at LH Hiranandani Hospital. We had an hour long discussion with an official there who informed us about the various legal requirements to go digital. He also asked us to brood over a completely digital Hospital Management System including inventory management, labs, OPD, prescriptions and pharmacy, as opposed to just digitizing the medical records.

Our next stop was the Chief Medical Officer(CMO) of IIT Bombay. The CMO, Dr. Nisha Shah, however had a different picture to paint. She says that digitization would increase the per patient consultation time since factors such as response time of the computer and time taken by the doctor to type in patient’s details, would now come into the picture. With the kind of flow that IITB hospital deals with, she believes that such delays would directly impact the waiting time. Besides that, additional factors viz. the working condition of computers and reliability of institute network would also be affecting essential healthcare services if we don’t have comprehensive fail-safe mechanisms.

When InsIghT suggested spare computers and lesser patients per doctor, the CMO said that IITB hospital already has a huge patient flow and the current number of doctors is barely sufficient. She believes that if we were to think of anything digital, we would need to have more doctors and also ensure that these doctors were sufficiently acquainted with the new system by conducting training workshops. All this might hamper the services during the transition phase which is not acceptable again for essential health services.

When asked if there was a way out, she replied that increasing the manpower is the answer to all our woes – more doctors, more nurses and more office staff. The new hospital building would ease some space constraints, but increasing the workforce is absolutely essential. She mentioned that medical records were not always publicly accessible until a few years back when an office staff would issue your file against an ID card. However, with increasing patient flow it was becoming unmanageable and led to a lot of delays.

She quoted a phenomenal decline in the number of hospital staff which was around 80 about ten  years back, while it is merely around 50 right now, despite the huge increase in campus population in recent years. She says that with declining workforce, the hospital’s priority is to provide the best possible medical assistance, while everything else is secondary.

The reason for the manpower shortage, though, seems unclear. The CMO says she has sent repeated requests to the administration for hiring more doctors and staff, but with little avail. InsIghT will be following up with the administration to unearth the roots of this problem. Visit www.insightiitb.org and stay tuned for further updates on the issue.

From The InsIghT Quarterly Issue 15.1`