Technology Improvement at a Local Medical Clinic

Quality medical care that is accessible to everyone is difficult to come by in Tanzania. An American couple, Dr. Frank Artress and Susan Gustafson, are working hard to change the situation. After permanently relocating to Tanzania, they started the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME), which provides free medical care to rural villagers at a mobile clinic. Currently they are working on expanding a permanent outpatient clinic in the heart of Karatu, a district in Tanzania. When they started, there were only three other doctors in the district which made for a staggering doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 to 60,000. Furthermore, most of the clinics that existed were plagued with long lines, unreliable service, corruption, and price gouging.

Public Service Fellow Ke Zhang (’10 Course 8) traveled to Tanzania to work with Dr. Artress and his team of Tanzanian health care workers. After much deliberation with Dr. Artress, they came to the realization that much of the unreliable and inefficient medical care in Tanzania could be remedied with better information technology. By revamping and digitizing the outpatient clinic, Ke Zhang sought to dramatically improve the care available to locals. He implementated a digital patient registration system to prevent the build up of thousands of individual patient files, and created a digital inventory of the pharmacy. With these two systems in place, the FAME clinic could provide first-rate medical care to locals while charging the same basic fees.

In dealing with the unreliable electricity of the clinic and the language barrier of the software used by FAME, Ke Zhang wired the clinic with a local network to protect the computer data during power outages. He then modified the software to accommodate two languages and two currencies. The result of his efforts was a robust data system that is cost-effective, efficient, and easy-to-use. The digital systems will also provide easy access to patient records and prescriptions, more efficient day-to-day operations, a reduction in paperwork and costs, and an increase in patient capacity. Furthermore, a digital system means that FAME donors from abroad can receive up-to-date information on patient and pharmacy activity.

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