Partners In Health (PIH) is a global health and social justice NGO dedicated to ensuring preferential health options for the poor.
Since 2005, PIH has worked closely with the Rwandan Ministry of Health to support 3 hospitals and 38 health centres, facilities that provide care to over 800,000 people in 3 rural districts in Rwanda.
PIH plays a crucial role in strengthening the national healthcare system in Rwanda, while aiming to give the highest quality medical treatment to all patients. PIH believes that helping a person with a medical illness cannot be successfully done without also addressing that person’s social and economic needs. PIH aims to end the cycle of poverty through this holistic approach to healthcare delivery.
In 2006 PIH began development and implementation of an electronic medical records (EMR) system, OpenMRS that was used initially to monitor the treatment of patients with HIV or AIDS, and later expanded to include non-communicable diseases.
The previous record system used only paper records, which could not be easily used to rapidly identify at-risk patients, manage patient care or produce reports. As the EMR system expanded across the Districts, infrastructure challenges were encountered where health centers had no power or had unreliable sources of power.
In 2013 PIH planned to deploy new or strengthen existing implementions of Open-MRS in 6 healthcare centres in Rwanda (2 offgrid and 4 on-grid). The off-grid clinics did not have sufficient power to run the EMR and the on-grid healthcare centres could not rely on municipal utilities to function reliably.
PIH had a limited budget and so needed an innovative and cost-effective solution, which did not limit the system’s performance or require complex maintenance.
GLE installed customised solar PV systems in the 6 PIH-supported health centres. In each centre the PV-system powered a laptop supporting the open-MRS and a printer that could be used to print prescriptions.
GLE engineers programmed the laptops to run at half power by developing a customised script. By reducing the energy consumption and optimising laptop power efficiency GLE were able to keep within the PIH budget without sacrificing performance.
Open-MRS systems were set up in 6 healthcare centres using a clean and reliable power source. By using solar energy, fuel and generator costs were reduced in offgrid healthcare centres and electric utility costs reduced in on-grid healthcare centres. Reliability of the system reduced increased medical record staff efficiency and was likely to have impacted on the quality of information entered.
Benefits of the EMR systems:
Patients’ medical records can be assessed immediately
Automatic alerts and reminders to support healthcare professionals
Medical dispensing support
Improved clinical reporting
Improved national reporting
Printed record summary for patient transfer
Quality of care can be monitored by clinic administrators
OpenMRS is currently being implemented nationally by the Government of Rwanda, supporting facilities in infectious diseases (HIV and TB), non-communicable diseases (heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and cancer) and acute care. Data collection in the EMR system allows for quality of care and health trends to be monitored nationally to support efforts for quality improvement.
At each site GLE installed the following PV-system:
PV Array 190 W
Charge controller (Morningstar SS-6L-12v)
Inverter (Vitron 800 W)
100 Ah sealed battery
“We have succeeded on the goal of this project. There is data synchronization of patient data and data officers can now enter data at the health centres without travelling as they used to do before.”
“Working with GLE was good. The GLE Staff were good and honest people, and I learnt a lot [about solar energy] from Jean-Aime and the team.”
– James Mbabazi, Health Information Systems IT Manager for PIH Rwanda