Electronic Health Records in the Developing World

Electronic Health Records in the Developing World

Nicholas Koch, 01/13/2010

Global Brigades’ Data Informatics System (DIS) is now launched, allowing us to keep electronic records for all patient data on Medical and Dental Brigades. Patient data is collected directly in a database, using OpenMRS, an open source electronic health record system – the same one used by Partners in Health. This allows us to track patient and community health trends over time. OpenMRS is ideal because it is highly adaptable, it has been successfully implemented in resource-poor settings across the world and, like all open source software, it is free.

As of this Brigade season, medical and dental patient information is being entered straight into the database. There are many reasons for this change, the most important one being that electronic health records improves the quality of care our patients receive. In an organization that works with as many different doctors as GB does, it can be difficult to maintain a standard of care for the patients. The DIS will help us achieve this by standardizing diagnoses and giving physicians access to a vast amount of data on similar patients and general community health trends. In addition, patients with chronic conditions will benefit from the fact that each time they are seen by a physician on a brigade, that physician has access to their full medical history, which would be impossible with paper records in large communities.

Within the next year, the DIS will become our primary means of data collection. All of our data will be stored in an easily accessible digital format enabling more advanced community assessment and research. Most importantly, the DIS provides GB with a means of evidence-based evaluation of success. With the DIS in place we will be able to track community health trends longitudinally, enabling us to monitor improvements over time. The DIS will greatly increase our ability to improve the health of our patients and our communities as a whole.

Nicholas Koch is Director of Information Technology with Global Brigades, currently living and working in Honduras. He graduated from NYU in May 2009, having co-founded GMB there.

Contact him: nicholas@globalbrigades.org


Nicholas Koch explaining to brigader how to use the Data Informatics system at the triage station.

Data Informatics training with students from DePaul University this winter

Data Informatics training with DePaul University this winter brigade season.

Student from DePaul University using the Data Informatics system for the first time, at the doctor's station during a medical brigade.

Using OpenMRS to enter patient forms during DePaul Medical Brigade.


3 thoughts on “Electronic Health Records in the Developing World

  1. Looks great! This could blend well with Dental and Public Health Brigades for epi data collection. Combining this data in with location information would be a powerful tool for brigade planners and local community leaders.

    1. Hey Paul!
      Thanks for your comment. We’ve actually started collecting information in some dental stations this Brigade season, and hope to expand that effort next season. We’re also planning on integrating data collection in Public Health and Water Brigades into OpenMRS.

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