YK Poudel

THIMPHU — The persistent issue of service delivery delays at the national referral hospital (JDWNRH) has prompted the Ministry of Health to take action.

The ministry has initiated a decongestion process by establishing thromde health centres at various locations and introduced the electronic patient information system (e-PIS).

However, despite these measures, the ground reality indicates that much work remains to be done. The hospital, equipped with major medical facilities and units, continues to experience disruptions that affect timely patient treatment and cause public frustration.

The hospital management has acknowledged the delays and disruptions in clinical services, attributing them to the implementation of the e-PIS, which was launched on April 14 this year.

The e-PIS was intended to enhance efficiency and improve patient care. However, it has required frequent troubleshooting and adjustments, along with the need for relevant officials to become familiar with the system.

According to a notification from the hospital, this transition and learning period pose challenges for health staff, who now spend more time per patient compared to the previous paper-based system.

The management does not have a definite deadline for completing the system’s implementation but assures that efforts are underway to address the issues and achieve a smooth system as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, officials from the national referral hospital were not available for comment on the matter.

The Ministry of Health plans to roll out the second phase of the e-PIS in Mongar and Gelephu referral hospitals, with the aim of completing the nationwide implementation by June next year, as stated by the Health Minister on June 30.

Recent statistics shared by the Health Minister indicate that over 10,000 patients have already registered in the system.

Initially, after the system’s launch in April, a hybrid mode was adopted, utilising both the e-PIS and a paper-based manual method. However, the use of the e-PIS has gradually increased, with patients now being seen through the system in the outpatient department.

The exchange of patient data between hospitals will facilitate improved healthcare monitoring and provision by both allopathic and traditional medicine practitioners through cross-referrals. This will enhance patient safety and contribute to the formulation of better health sector policies. Additionally, the online storage of data will simplify the referral process.

To access healthcare services through the e-PIS system, patients are required to present proof of identity, such as a Citizenship Identity Card or voter card, as well as a work permit. Once the identity card is presented, the doctor enters the number into the system.

For a patient’s first visit since the system’s implementation, the doctor requests their medical history and records it in the system. This ensures that all medical records are readily available when the doctor enters the identity card number for subsequent visits.

The e-PIS system is a key component of Bhutan’s Digital Drukyul development since 2016. It was piloted in Paro in 2017 with support from the Asian Development Bank.