NWRHA chair: Digitalisation is pivotal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chairman of the Northwest Regional Health Authority Lisa Agard – File photo

Lisa Agard, the chairman of the Northwest Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), has stressed the pivotal role of digitalisation in shaping the future of healthcare.

Speaking at a public board meeting at the Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s on Tuesday, Agard said the authority is committed to accountability, transparency and integrity, with a focus on the organisation’s performance during the fiscal years 2022–23.

Agard said approximately 816,340 patient visits were recorded over the last two years and stressed the importance of maintaining a system that benefits patients, staff and the general public.

She touched on healthcare challenges, noting the impact communicable and noncommunicable diseases have on global healthcare systems.

Agard referred to the World Health Organization’s estimates of the prevalence of communicable diseases, including HIV and AIDS, saying they play a significant role in mortality and disability, particularly in low- to medium-income countries.

On noncommunicable diseases, Agard said 17 million people die from such diseases before the age of 70 each year, with 86 per cent considered premature deaths.

“In alignment with the Ministry of Health’s strategic direction, NWRHA has actively subscribed to initiatives for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.”

Agard said the authority had concentrated on health promotion through education, disease prevention and health screening for early detection, saying 97 per cent of the requested health screening services were fulfilled and 92 per cent of planned health promotional campaigns were carried out in the last fiscal year.

Additionally, around 6,000 people were tested for HIV/AIDS and 78 educational sessions were held, reaching an estimated 1,842 people.

Agard said the NWRHA oversees two “critical” health areas: mental health services and cancer care services. In mental health services, therapeutic services were expanded, a clinic was initiated and outreach programmes launched.

On cancer care services, she said the NWRHA saw the introduction of the linear accelerator (LINAC) in June 2020, enhancing radiation treatment options and improving precision, efficiency and scope for cancer patients, and it continues to play a significant role.

Agard addressed the authority’s commitment to digitalisation, citing the implementation of a health management information system and an electronic health platform, eHealth.

“The platform has been extended to all hospitals and health centres, playing a crucial role in patient registration, record-keeping, and pharmaceutical management. The eHealth platform has contributed to reduced patient wait times, enhanced access to patient information for clinical professionals and substantial cost savings related to expired pharmaceuticals.”

At the maternity ward at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH), Agard detailed plans for further enhancements through the introduction of a dedicated patient bed-management module, expanded capabilities for the eHealth mobile application, and increased interoperability with existing health information systems.

Highlighting the eHealth platform’s impact, she said approximately 118,600 patient registrations and 397,000 prescriptions were dispensed and the system at present holds data for about 320,000 patients, which she says reflects its importance in the transition of health data.

“The eHealth platform has around 1,643 active internal users, serving health workers utilising various facets of the facilities to provide services to patients.”

Briefly touching on the ongoing central block project at PoSGH, she said the old central block was demolished last year.

“The redevelopment aligns with the vision of transforming PoSGH into a premier teaching hospital for the Caribbean,” adding it is a necessity for parallel implementation of eHealth platforms for effective healthcare service delivery.

Agard reiterated the importance of the eHealth digital role in co-ordination between health facilities, enabling patients to access prescribed medications conveniently, saying it contributed to more productive lives.

Agard concluded by touching on human resources, staff engagement and the importance of having dedicated and engaged staff.

“The authority has implemented a robust employee assistance programme, offering counselling, social support, and routine health screenings. Employee recognition, appreciation activities, academic awards for staff’s children and various socialisation opportunities further contribute to fostering a positive work environment.”