Ten years ago, around April 20th 2007, I started working with PIH in Rwanda which was later renamed Partners In Health – Inshuti Mu Buzima.
The organization needed someone who could look after the small networks that were in place in the few sites that PIH worked with, provide IT support to computer users around those sites, and make sure that the Electronic Medical Record system that we used was always running.
From my technical background it was an excellent opportunity to apply what I had seen in University and in books, managing such a wide range of equipment and responsibilities. It provided me with daily simple challenges to more complex challenges that had to be planned for and negotiated from budget holders and other team members at PIH-IMB.
Over the years I got to have a team to help with the ever expanding needs of other programs in the organization. This also opened up a new requirement, managing other people, training them, mentoring them and in general leading them so that as a department, we have a unified vision of what needs to be done and how to do it in accordance to the PIH-IMB philosophy. This philosophy has changed in how it is broadcasted or talked about over the years, but the core stays the same: making sure that you do whatever it takes to support the patients when they come to the hospitals and health centers we collaborate with:
“When our patients are ill and have no access to care, our team of health professionals, scholars, and activists will do whatever it takes to make them well—just as we would do if a member of our own families or we ourselves were ill.”
From an IT point of view, it might seem that we are so far from the patients that their issues should be left to the clinicians alone. But over the years I have learned to always try to think of ways to contribute to the patient’s welfare.
It started when I was first introduced to what the EMR system did then (The HIV module was the most used then), it had great impact for the many patients enrolled in it and I came to realize that even not being a clinician I had a responsibility to make sure that system worked full time in order to do my part in that great mission PIH-IMB has put forward. 10 years later it serves even more clinical programs and has expanded to cover more health centers in the 3 districts we work with.
The services Information technology provides, even minutely like making sure that clinicians have minimal hassle using their IT equipment, to major projects that reduced the distance a patient has to travel to get lab results; always have their roots, not only in technological innovation or evolution but mainly in the needs of the patients. For all major projects you can always find an impact on the service provided to the patients.
This vision of providing preferential healthcare access to less privileged communities in Rwanda and across the world is not what made me take a ‘moto’ down the dusty road to Rwinkwavu Hospital in 2007 for a job interview, but it is what made me stay with PIH-IMB until now and for many more years.