Chapter 1: Introduction

1.0    Introduction    

Healthcare is an information intensive industry and healthcare professionals rely on access to correct and comprehensive information, when and where they need it, to inform the daily decisions they make about a person’s care. Information and communications technology is largely absent from the way we generate, capture and share health information as we continue our reliance on handwritten paper records. To say that this reliance on paper is inefficient, wastes money and scarce resources, and compromises patient safety and the quality of care is an understatement. [1]In order to meet these challenges and ensure the sustainability of healthcare, we need to change the way healthcare is funded and delivered.

The challenges facing healthcare, if not addressed appropriately and soon, will become overwhelming. They call into question a nation’s ability to deliver efficient, equitable, affordable, portable, universal, highly accessible and safe, high quality healthcare. According to Professor Odusanya who spoke on: “Improving Healthcare Service Delivery in Nigeria”. The time has indeed come in the country to reconsider the content of healthcare services and make it more accessible and continuous. Nigeria at this time needs a health system that would reduce the number of people dying and as such, it is time that corruption must be done away with and not found in the system at any level of care [2].

Information and communication technologies, ICT is used to describe a range of technologies for gathering, storing, retrieving, processing, analyzing, and transmitting information. Information is seen as a key element to achieving these objectives, as is a workforce trained in the appropriate health information skills. It is an unfortunate reality that healthcare is not as safe as it should be. Adverse events and preventable errors that cause patient harm and death are commonplace in healthcare. These errors are most often not the fault of individuals, but of a system that fails to provide safe and effective care. The cause of preventable errors can be traced to gaps in the flow of information and communication failures both within organizations and across different healthcare service providers. The personal cost of these errors is immeasurable. ICT has helped in bridging distances and providing access to clinical knowledge, specialized expertise and health services thus saving lives and costs. ICT provides access to clinical information, Telemedicine, Online Discussion groups and other tools. The need for reform of health sector and the need for investment in, and deployment of e-health has been part of the healthcare agenda for many years. These well documented challenges include rising demand for healthcare services due to the ageing of the population, the rise in chronic disease and increased consumer expectations; problems with health workforce supply and distribution; inequity of access to services, particularly amongst indigenous, rural and poor populations; quality and safety concerns; and fragmented and limited ability to share information [1]

In order to meet these challenges and ensure enhancement of existing health care systems, deployment of health informatics/e-Health and interoperability among health service providers cannot be overemphasized. Health informatics which was formerly known as medical informatics was defined as the science that deals with the use of computer and communication technology to acquire, store, analyze, communicate, and display medical/health information and knowledge to facilitate understanding and improve the accuracy, timeliness, and reliability of decision making in health care delivery system [3].

  1. Statement of the Problem

 The uncoordinated nature of data collection and poor communication among those who collect and manage data seriously hampers effective data collection and management in Nigeria health system; it is difficult to have up to date statistics on diseases, so continuous monitoring is always a problem. Disease might be in an epidemic state before any action is taken; with the apparently simple premise of universal connectivity and accessibility which the Internet computing is changing in the field of information systems, the Nigeria Health system still lack’s behind; researchers, nongovernment organizations, volunteers, government etc., has found it difficult to come to the aid of persons affected with diseases or suggest proper ways to proffer solution due to lack of proper records meant to be posted on a webpage through the Internet for easy access irrespective of location.

1.2       Aim and Objectives of the Study

The goal of this study is to develop a health management system for tropical diseases in Nigeria. Specifically the objectives of this research are to:

1. Design a health management system.

2. Create a database of selected tropical disease generated from patient’s health records over time.

3. Develop a query system for the database to obtain information about any tropical diseases of interest for the purpose of research work.

4. Generate prevalence information on any tropical disease through statistical analysis.

5. Use the system as a benchmark for research and Health planning.

1.3       Significance of the Study

 It helps in having quick Access to some tropical diseases across Nigeria, for medical research and health planning; It helps to identify regions or communities mostly affected by some tropical diseases in Nigeria thereby attracting the attention of government or nongovernmental organization to their aid; it gives the Government a focus on Health strategic plan.; It enhances the need for prevention and treatment of the affected person in the regions/communities; Since tropical diseases are associated with poverty, poor sanitation etc, this study will help the government to identify areas for poverty alleviation programme and the need to improve environmental sanitation in the affected areas.

1.4       Scope and Limitation

This research work is designed to cover some selected tropical diseases in Nigeria generated from electronic health records of patients in various health facilities across Nigeria eg (Waritoma and Rahila Hospital Wukari, University of Nigeria Medical Centre Nsukka, Kwararafa Hospital  Wukari , University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu). The selected diseases include: African trpanosomiasis, chagas diseases, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, helminthesis and also included are tuberculosis cholera, leprosy, yellow fever, human pathogenic avian influenza (Avian flu), polio HIV aids, lassa fever.