February 4, 2014

Partnership with MIT Brings New and Improved Data Systems to Kara


For the staff of HTH/AED-Lidaw, the herculean task of providing care to thousands of individuals living with HIV/AIDS just got a little more manageable. Thanks to students from the GlobeMed Chapter at MIT, a partner of HTH, staff are now equipped with basic technology and training to enhance their daily responsibilities. “During my recent trip to Togo, I was amazed to see staff sitting in their offices, typing and entering program data into computers,” recounted HTH Executive Director Jenny Schechter. “This is a dramatic change from handwriting in notebooks and on paper forms as we have done for so many years.”  

Finance Director, Elise Warga, entering financial data into computer donated by GlobeMed at MIT students

In January, MIT students Sherry Fu and Liz Shanahan held a two-week computer training for staff of HTH/AED-Lidaw’s central clinic. The training focused on typing skills for basic learners and more advanced Excel training for those with prior experience. “The staff were very eager to learn,” Sherry and Liz reported. Even those with no prior experience were extremely motivated. Assistant Coordinator of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Program, Nadege, who had never before used a computer, proved to have the strongest typing skills of the entire staff. “When she only got 95% or less (which was rare), she would repeat the exercises twice or more until she got a better score,” said Sherry and Liz. The advanced learners also greatly appreciated the training. Monitoring, Evaluation and Quality Improvement Director, Emmanuel, had the most experience going into the training so he strove to maximize new learning. “He always brought great questions to see if we could help him with an aspect of his patient data, and he was very good at applying the tools we presented to his own data in different ways,” reported Sherry and Liz. After the training Emmanuel remarked, “I really benefited from the training provided by the MIT students. The skills I learned have made my work so much easier. I no longer have to do long calculations from paper reports. My reports now populate and calculate the information I need automatically. Now I can spend more time on quality improvement, rather than just collecting data.” In addition to the training, MIT students supplied the clinic with six repurposed laptops donated by an MIT Department. The addition of these computers and the skills to use them represents a dramatic improvement in the clinic’s technological capacity. Just a few months ago the clinic, which employs over 40 full time staff members, had only two computers. This technological deficit severely limited the efficiency of staff, especially in the areas of data collection and reporting. Today, thanks to the generous support of GlobeMed at MIT, 14 staff members have been trained in computer literacy and are now using computers to manage their program reporting requirements. Perhaps the biggest change occurred in the pharmacy where medications were formerly tracked and counted on paper sheets assembled in a huge three-ring notebook. While effective, this system was cumbersome. The pharmacy coordinators can now manipulate a simple Excel spreadsheet to better manage the pharmacy stock.

Pharmacy Coordinator, Edwige, filling a patient’s prescription and recording the data in Excel

The Executive Director of AED-Lidaw, Christophe, emphasized this dramatic change, “Before, it would take us a very long time to access information. Now we can quickly get the information we need.” According to Finance Director, Elise Warga, “Having a computer makes my work much easier and also less costly. Before I had to make lots of photocopies, now I can enter the same information into the computer and share the reports with my colleagues electronically.” In addition to improving program efficiency and reducing costs, these changes have instilled a renewed confidence in staff, many of whom never had the opportunity to pursue formal education. The opportunity to augment their professional skills and to become more effective in their service of patients has been a tremendous source of pride for staff. Ultimately, however, it is the patients of HTH/AED-Lidaw who benefit most. The improved systems mean that HTH/AED-Lidaw can now provide better services to adults and children living with HIV/AIDS. This drive to continually do better for patients is always our ultimate goal.