My recent visit to the Ridge hospital for a checkup last week exposed me to a new style of record-keeping that got me thinkin g. So I asked myself; “Is Ridge Hospital’s new style of managing patient’s records an ideal case for analyzing the future of Records Management in Ghana?”
As a Records & Information Management Professional, I am aware that due to the authority records hold, its authenticity must be maintained by preserving them in a safe and secured environment. This safe and secured environment has been known over the years to be the Records Offices, Centralized Records centers, the archives and recently, varying Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS) and Content Management Systems (CMS) used in various organizations.
When you visit Accra Ridge hospital however, a new folder is opened for patients with a file number. After the Nurses have taken your temperature, pulse and weight readings and recorded them in your file, you are asked to go to a front desk at the waiting area where details on your form is entered into a system. After seeing the Doctor, and getting your prescriptions, you return the folder to the Nurses who enter the details of your diagnosis into a manual Register and an electronic system. The amazing part which triggered this article is that, you are asked to take your folder home and bring it along on your next visit.
This new practice undoubtedly takes the burden of maintaining the security and easy access to the patient’s document from the hospital to the patient and their families. It is also clear that the Hospital by this practice has escaped the constant attack on public organizations, institutions and individuals for bad records keeping practices. And for Ghanaians who visit the hospital like myself, we are smiling at the elimination of the long queues that usually accompanies the Folder Collection section in most hospitals. But what are the implications and is this practice an ideal situation?
While I am a little concerned about the possibility of an unhappy relative or hater tempering with the content of the folder lying at home (e.g. a missing X-Ray), I am more worried about emergency cases, where the patient does not have his/her folder with them. Will the classified information recorded in the notebook or system be enough as a medical history? Probably I need to do a face to face interview to have enough information on how this system works for the hospital.
But could it be that the hospital is one of the organizations who are tired of the overwhelming nature of paper documents crowding their offices as a result of their daily service provision? Studies have shown that 80%-90% of all business-related information in the average office in Ghana is still maintained on paper with no proper records control. This means that for most organizations, critical information loss is highly likely in the event of a disaster. Paper has become an extremely costly means of storing and communicating information. Meanwhile, it is important to ensure that organizations that wants to automate its business process do it right. It is not enough to have a general excitement for adopting an electronic system for managing records/information without proper consideration of backlogs of records that are still in physical format.
To end, my question to all Records & Information Management Professionals, Managers, Officers Clerks and other interest groups; ”What role can we play to ensure a smooth transition from paper-based to electronic records management and what preparations are we making to maintain our jobs in the fast-approaching paperless generation?”
The writer is an Information Management Consultant and can be reached via email on firstname.lastname@example.org