By Judith Akolo
As disease patterns change and health service delivery becomes more complex, providers are coming up with more innovative ways of tackling illness as well as to meet demand for the services.
Mediscan Africa has embarked on a tailored program known as point of care ultrasound that trains doctors on more innovative ways of diagnosis and care for patients. This according to Mediscan Africa Business Development Manager, Patrick Miruka will improve and retool the skills of medical professionals to aid them in ensuring efficiency in the provision of healthcare.
“Basically what we do is we run ultrasound training and other continuing medical education for medical doctors and medical professional on point of care ultrasound,” he says and adds; “This is used for emergency purposes and helps physicians to be able to make quick diagnostics or quick decisions,”
This according to Miruka will also reduce cases of misdiagnosis or poor approaches in treatment as the doctor is able to use ultrasound to determine the nature of sickness without having to send the patient to another department to get the image, “the image is right in front of the doctor on the screen.”
At a time when the doctor-to-patient ratio in Kenya is about 1:10,000, that one doctor to every 10,000 patients, against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 1:1,000 that one doctor to every 1000 patients, besides the small number of specialized health professionals in given fields which at times forces the doctors to work long hours on end.
Miruka says that continuous training on the use of novel technology in diagnosis will reduce the amount of time, one patient is attended to while increasing efficiency. “Soon the use of the stethoscope will be seen as obsolete with the coming in of ultrasound in diagnostics,” he offers.
The knowledge gap in the use of the Managed Equipment Services (MES) that ensures that public hospitals have access to modern health infrastructure, equipment, and services over an agreed period of time, met challenges at inception when most doctors could not handle the equipment and required that an expert does so, “The way medicine used to work back in the day was we used to send the patient if you wanted to know if a patient has for example a stone in the gall bladder we used to send them to the radiology department to do an image and then they would come back,” says Dr. Edward Maina, a specialist in emergency medicine and adds, “now we are trying to change that model so that when a patient is with you in the consultation room you can actually just run an image and be able to tell there and then.
Dr. Maina says this approach is less costly as the patient will not be paying for radiology services as the all the processes are done in the same consultation room and you are able to treat “the patient based on what you are seeing on the screen using the ultrasound.”
He notes that the continuous training on newer methods of diagnostics is improving efficiency as one doctor is able to handle more patients effectively, he says the point-of-care ultrasound, is part of a battery of tests that can be done on the spot.
“You don’t have to send the patient to another department, you can just do it there and then, he says and adds, “The way it helps us as medical doctors are first of all you able to lessen the burden for patients who have to go to radiology to get an image done and come back, it lessens the time to get a diagnosis, we also free up the department because some of the patients who come can get a test done and you know whether it is positive or negative and that helps us to make a decision,” says Dr. Maina.
Kenta Hara the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Africa Asia Health Dynamics says it is possible to reduce the overload on referral hospitals when doctors at level two or three hospitals are able to use innovative ways of diagnosis.
“Medical doctors cannot use their ability in the hospital, especially at the point of care, so they would like to diagnose for themselves but they are forced to send the patient for other lab tests or ultrasound, yet if the medical doctors are trained and have the skills in ultrasound, they can carry out the tests by themselves and make a decision,” says Kenta Hara, CEO AA Health Dynamics.
Kenta notes that the long queues always seen in referral hospitals of patients waiting to be attended to can be reduced if usable data is generated and used in the distribution of resources to hospitals.
“There is a need to develop usable good data so that government understands what they have to do to reduce the cost or how to distribute resources,” he says and adds, “for example, if there is an increase in HIV cases in Kiambu the resources will be taken to Kiambu, and if Nairobi has more dialysis cases, then the resources needed for dialysis will be taken to Nairobi based on the data.”
Kenta says that the knowledge of engineering graduates can be put to good use in the health sector by allowing them to develop software that can be used in the sector to increase efficiency.