The project will be piloted in all BHU I and IIs and the district hospital 

Update: Preparations to introduce an electronic Patient Information System (ePIS) in Paro are still underway.

The ePIS, as part of health ministry’s vision to move away from paper-based medical records and enhance use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), was expected to be introduced by the end of last month.

Health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said infrastructure is being set up currently and that the pre-piloting project at Paro is expected to begin this month.

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 World Health Organisation (WHO) will spend about USD 210,000 for technical support and capacity building activities.

WHO’s medical officer for health systems strengthening, Dr Suraj M Shrestha, said that WHO is currently mobilising funds to support phase I of the project including technical support of ThoughtWorks. “The project will start soon and Phase I is expected to last for about six months,” he said.

The ePIS project was planned under WHO collaborative programme for 2016-17.

WHO officials said that the ePIS would 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 subject to reliable internet connectivity in all health facilities across Bhutan.

Health officials in Paro are to be trained first, after which the system will be rolled out for the pre-pilot (Phase I) of the project. Paro was chosen given its proximity to Thimphu, which makes it easier to monitor, supervise, and instantly troubleshoot issues. The ideal distribution of human resources for health, minimal investment for infrastructure and Paro being a role model for a district hospital were also considered.

As part of the 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. 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.

Kinga Dema