Cape Town, South Africa, Improves the Transfer of Patient-Specific Health Information from 4 Percent to 80 Percent

This story originally appeared in IHI's 2008 Annual Progress Report.
In developing nations such as South Africa, it can be as hard for information to travel between caregivers as it is for patients. For example, says Michéle Youngleson, MBChB BSc Hon (Epidemiol), IHI Project Manager, “Prenatal care takes place over a number of facilities: the prenatal clinic, the labor ward, the primary health clinic for follow-up. The chain of information transfer has been inadequate.”
Specifically, staff at one clinic determined that only 4 percent of newborn babies had their HIV risk status noted on their patient-held health records issued at the labor ward. To address this, a simple but stunningly effective solution was developed in Somerset West Clinic, a primary health care center in the Eastern sub-district of Cape Town.
“The patient-held maternal and child health cards were stapled together at the time of delivery,” says IHI’s South Africa Director, Pierre Barker, MD. This way, the mother’s HIV status — a critical piece of information in customizing care for the newborn — would travel with the baby to its first check-up.
“This has improved the transfer of information to the primary care clinics to more than 80 percent,” says Youngleson. “HIV-exposed babies are easier to identify. There is less frustration for staff, reduction of re-testing, and improved efficiency.”
And the benefits don’t stop there: For the first time, reliable follow-up HIV care is being provided for mothers at their babies’ check-ups. The intervention is soon to be spread throughout the Western Province, far beyond the Cape Town region.
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