For Dr. Elom Otchi, a speaker at the upcoming Omnia Health Live Africa and one of the World Health Organizations’ (WHO) Global Experts on Patient Safety, providing better care and improving care outcomes is what drives him. He describes himself as someone who is very passionate, confident, assertive and committed, and believes in diligence and hard work.
He is a Consultant and Technical Director of AfIHQSA, a healthcare quality and patient safety institute. The organisation is one of the few on the continent that trains and prepares healthcare professionals and helps institutions design quality management systems so that they can improve upon the quality of care and outcomes. Also, for institutions that would want to seek accreditation, it prepares them so that their accreditation journey is not complicated.
At Omnia Health Live Africa, Dr. Otchi will be discussing how COVID-19 could transform hospital planning. He explains that the first thing organisations should do is to look at the type of service they will provide because that will influence the types of providers that are recruited as well as the types of equipment to be procured and the categories of patients who will visit the facility. It will also influence the type of quality management system that has to be deployed to ensure that outcomes are improved.
“In this part of the world, it is common to have a facility designated as a polyclinic or a clinic, and then in a short span of time, it can be designated as a hospital, and soon after it might become a teaching hospital. These changes don’t take design and the equipment available into consideration. So, when such reclassifications are made, we have to start making extensions and thinking about what kinds of equipment or types of services need to be added,” he shares.
The key, says Elom, is to be proactive rather than reactive. The focus should be on the medium to long term future, as these considerations have an impact even on the types of fabric and materials used in any health facility construction.
He gives the example of China, as the country put up hospitals in less than seven days during the height of COVID-19. The hospitals were set up and when they sufficiently dealt with the pandemic, they were dismantled, and the materials have been used for other projects. “We should be looking at that type of planning and these considerations should be crucial and contribute towards attaining the desired outcomes,” he adds.
Role of technology in improving patient safety
One of the dimensions of healthcare has to do with person-centeredness and having empathy, so it is important to ensure that the personal touch is not lost. Healthcare institutions shouldn’t become too focused on what technology is helping them achieve and lose the emotive and relational aspect of care, Elom emphasises.
However, he adds that technology can help in enhancing the efficiency of care and help in significantly reducing turnaround times in the provision of care. “Depending on how robotics and other technologies are being used, the error rate can be lower than the errors a human being would have made. Technology also goes a long way in enhancing the safety of both providers and patients. But it all depends on how that technology is designed and deployed.”
For instance, Dr. Otchi says, in some hospitals and healthcare institutions, technology is being used for registration processes, appointment systems and in triage and decision making. It is also being used in precision medicine, cancer treatment, radiology and medical laboratory. He stresses that organisations need to be mindful that a human being will be using those technologies so they should be trained efficiently to achieve the desired outcomes.
He concludes: “Healthcare providers are well-intentioned people. They are genuine and good people who would want to see the improvement in the outcomes of care for their patients. So, it behoves on all stakeholders to support them and play our role in the delivery of healthcare. In the event of COVID-19, we have lost a lot of healthcare workers because they laid their lives down to save others. I believe the least that countries, managers, and policymakers could do is to ensure that the basic needs such as PPEs are provided so that the staff can continue to provide safe and quality care outcomes.”