Update: An electronic Patient Information System (ePIS) for Paro that was planned since last year is now scheduled for launch next month, according to health ministry officials.

Department of Medical Services director general Dr Pandup Tshering said that the pilot project will be carried out in February in Paro followed by Trashiyangtse and if possible in Bumthang.

The ePIS piloting was to be introduced in July last year. However, as the project was dependent on technical experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), it was delayed, said health officials.

The ePIS is expected to benefit the health system through improvement of the patient information system besides providing accurate data on individual patients. “There will not be duplication of prescription and reduce wastage of resources while patients don’t have to carry prescriptions and reports when they visit different health facilities in the country,” Dr Pandup Tshering said.

As part of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) vision, ePIS is one of the projects to be implemented wherein details of the patient’s illness and investigations would be recorded in the system.

For instance, if a patient is referred to Thimphu from Trashigang, even if they misplace their prescription, health officials in Thimphu can refer the details on the system using the patient’s code.

However, some of the challenges foreseen are internet connectivity, computer literacy of health workers and acceptability of the users, according to the health ministry.

The ePIS is part of health ministry’s vision to move away from paper-based medical records and enhance use of ICT.

The ePIS will be piloted in all Basic Health Units I and IIs and the district hospital in Paro. The pre-pilot project (phase I) in Paro is expected to last about six months. The health ministry will spend Nu 1.5 million (M) while the WHO will spend about USD 210,000 for technical support and capacity building activities.

The project was planned under the WHO collaborative programme for 2016-17. It is expected to benefit the health system in the country through sustainable and interoperable e-Health solutions that will further help improve health service delivery and develop a more resilient health system. Likewise, it will also support the larger national e-health vision and action plan that will respond to health and development goals in measuring and achieving Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals.

Phase II of the project, also expected to last about six months, will expand to two more dzongkhags and cost about USD 300,000 after which it will be implemented nationwide. The overall duration of the project is expected to last four years with an estimated cost of about USD 2.5M.

Going nationwide, which is part of phase III of the project including referral hospitals is expected to last about three years. The estimated cost is about USD 2M, but is subject to reliable internet connectivity in all health facilities across Bhutan.

Kinga Dema