I am Mateusz Blommaert and I am a student in master of engineering specialising in computer science and artificial interest at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium. I am also interested in medicine and I enjoy helping others.
This year I had the opportunity to join the wonderful organisation of Academics for Development (AFD). AFD is a student organisation that strives to create social impact as much as possible. This is done by and with students. To achieve this, AFD organises several projects in the south in which students from different backgrounds form a team. Those multidisciplinary teams work on the project during the year and in the summer break (July and August) they go on site to implement their ideas. After a tough selection process I got selected to take part in the Sundarban project.
In short this project has as objective to digitalise SSDC. SSDC, or Sundarban Social Development Center, is a non-profit organisation situated in the Sundarbans, East-India. Its objective is to create a health care system accessible for everyone living in the poor region. Currently, SSDC manages a children clinic, an eye clinic and it also has a clinic boat which sails from one island to another providing medical care on some of them. The Sundarban project itself has two main objectives: the digitalisation of the heath care and digitalisation of the accountancy.
It is really important to digitalise the patient records. Currently, all patient records are kept on paper. However, this is not sustainable in the long run since the region has a hot and humid climate leading to fungus on the papers. We began brainstorming on how we could solve this problem and we soon found OpenMRS. It looked like the perfect solution for our project.
In December we had to give some intermediary presentations and we also met with a lot of professionals, like the CTO (chief technology officer) of the University Hospital of Leuven. Everyone told us that we were too ambitious and that a small problem in the system would lead to abandonment of it. Also, the transition between a paper based system to a fully digital system would be too big. This is indeed something we had to take into account. We, therefore, searched for other solutions. One of them was a print-scan system in which for each patient we would print a paper with a barcode and at the end of day we would scan those papers and classify them. However, we felt we were missing something and especially with such an amazing open-source as OpenMRS available, it would be a pity to not use it. We, therefore, started to look out for other solutions and we recently came up with the idea of using clerks.
SSDC hires a lot of people, just to give them an income. Therefore, it would be a good idea to train some of them to become clerks. In this idea, the care providers would still write information on the papers. However, instead of just storing those records, the papers are given to the clerks who then have to fill in the information into OpenMRS. This way the patient records are kept on paper as well as digitally. This also allows for a gentle introduction to the digitalisation, which later on can then easily be extended to care providers who provide the information themselves into the system.
As for the digitalisation of the accountancy we were thinking of simply making an Excel template which they can use. If anyone has better ideas, you can always contact us!
Our team consists of five students (myself included) and one Belgian partners which funds SSDC and will go together with us on spot during the summer. We will stay at SSDC for six weeks. To fully introduce my team, I will shortly give each member’s name and their study:
- Louis Polet: student master sales engineer
- Julie den Hartog: student master medicine
- Lenz van Dommelen: student master bio-engineering and management
- Rosalie De Ruysscher: student master in law
As I am the only one with a technical background and knowledge in programming it is a bit tough, but we are getting there. I already played with the demo application to get to know how it works and I also read some articles on the wiki and the guide. However, I am still a bit new to this forum and, therefore, would really appreciate it to receive further help and tips.
Any support would be warmly welcomed and appreciated! In case you would like to contact us directly, you can do this via firstname.lastname@example.org
My introduction was a bit long, though I hope it is clear. And since, we are a truly motivated team, we would really like to make the best out of it, be the change and create social impact in the Sundarbans!