CHOP’s Jonathan Crossette Blogs from the Botswana Informatics Conference 2012

June 15 – Thursday morning, as our faculty workshop at UB began, I could scarcely believe that our work week would soon be over. At the beginning of the week, the end seemed a long journey away.

But we had so many positive interactions and outcomes that the journey went quickly. A highlight for me was witnessing the genesis of what I have to believe will be fruitful collaboration between the University of Botswana (UB) and the University of KwaZulu Natal’s (UKZN) established informatics program. This has been an objective of ours for some time so it was rewarding to see it happen

June 2012 UB Health Sciences Informatics Workshop faculty

Front row from left, a Motswana faculty member, UB,  and our coordinator, Cynthia Antwi (Botswana UPenn Partnership). Second row; the author, Dr. John Holmes (UPenn), the UB deputy dean of health sciences Dr. Mogobe, Mr Singh from UKZN, Dr. Tony Luberti, CBMi. Back row, our project director Dr. Carrie Kovarik (UPenn) and Ryan Littman-Quinn, the telemedicine director (Botswana UPenn Partnership).

June 14 – From the Botswana Daily News

GABORONE – Botswana needs to invest in health informatics in order to strengthen efficiency of the health sector. Minister of Health, Dr John Seakgosing said this when officiating at a one-day conference dubbed Health Informatics Pitso 2012 held in Gaborone on Tuesday. Dr John Seakgosing said though it is still new in Botswana, health informatics is increasingly becoming important within the country’s health system. The discipline is a triunity of information science, computer science and health care. It allows for accurate use of medical information, data analysis, cost management and all round health care management.

“In health care, if implemented thoughtfully, this technology offers an opportunity to improve both health care delivery and health outcomes, as information and communication technology can assist clinicians at points of care to make the best decisions and accurately carry them out,” the minister noted. He said in an era of limited financial and human resources, another advantage of using such technology is that it allows for extended specialised care to remote areas, saving time and cost of travel for both patients and health care providers. Dr Seakgosing expressed confidence that the conference would lay a foundation for strong and vibrant health informatics community in Botswana. He said the Ministry of Health is already advancing with the process of incorporating information communication technology (ICT) in its service delivery as it has already commissioned a consultancy to develop a strategy that will guide it to adopt ICT as well as how it could integrate different health information systems. He said the consultancy has already made some recommendations, which the ministry is studying.

The minister said as part of implementing this strategy, the ministry has introduced a hospital-based information system, which has been rolled out to seven hospitals and 16 satellite clinics around the country. BOPA

June 13 – The Minister of Health stayed for several presentations and asked for the slides. That is huge.  Attendees (about 220 had signed in) were enthusiastic and engaged all day. The break-out group I attended served as a catalyst for collaboration between educators and there was strong interest in forming a national informatics group.  I felt we met our objectives and I look forward to next steps.

Our project group had helped write the Minister’s speech and I have to admit to having enjoyed a bit of a thrill hearing words we crafted used by a high-level official. Apparently the event was featured on Botswana TV, but we have not yet seen footage.

June 12 – One Man, One Beast immortalized in front of the UB Library

Below, Dr John Holmes (UPenn), Dr Carrie Kovarik, and Dr Tony Luberti (CBMi) before the conference opening:

The fates, trying hard to provide a demonstration of the challenges to deploying technology in health care in Botswana, chose the evening before the conference to have the power go out in just enough sections of Gaborone to add a little extra anxiety to our preparations. One of those sections, of course, is where our pre-conference African-themed dinner was scheduled. The restaurant, though, was up to the challenge—as if to show that where there is a will, there is a way. The fates surrendered after the main course and we finished with electricity on, while choosing to dim the lights to continue enjoying the candles—and to thumb our noses at the fates. Next time, reflections on the conference.

June 11 – John Holmes, CBMi’s Tony Luberti and I, along with Anne Seymour of Penn’s Biomedical library, arrived safely on Sunday June 10. We had a pleasant afternoon showing John around Gaborone and getting situated. Dr. Carrie Kovarik, the project director for the PEPFAR-funded informatics capacity building project arrived Monday.

Not only has the conference been over-subscribed (more than 200), but people continue to email and call for a seat. Our venue, the library at the University of Botswana(UB), is breathtaking. For the history of the origins of UB and the unique way it was funded, please visit One Man, One Beast .

Jonathan Crossette

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