Scaling up primary healthcare (PHC) interventions across low and middle-income countries could save 60 million lives and increase average life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030. Caritas Czech Republic actively works to improve the quality of primary healthcare (PHC) services in Georgia and provide it with comprehensive IT solutions.
PHC’s Role in a Strong Health Care
It is scientifically proven that PHC is the most inclusive, equitable, cost-effective, and efficient approach to enhance people’s physical and mental health, as well as social well-being. An international study comparing the strength of primary care in 13 high-income countries found that strong primary care led to improved population health and lower health expenditure (WHO).
Having qualified medical personnel and quality standards in PHC is a cornerstone in a strong healthcare system. Timely visits to family doctors that may avert citizens from paying for further expensive medical services and prevent them from potential complications in their health condition also plays a vital role in strengthening the whole system.
Within the Czech Development Agency-supported project, Caritas Czech Republic works to strengthen the primary healthcare system in Georgia through the introduction of improved medical guidelines for family doctors, the development of countrywide comprehensive IT solutions, and updating qualification standards/requirements for PHC professionals.
The Importance of Improved Medical Guidelines
A clinical protocol is a medical guideline – a document consisting of best practices for managing a particular medical condition, which includes a treatment plan founded on evidence-based strategies and consensus statements in the field.
Caritas Czech Republic has been asked to develop clinical practice guidelines and protocols and pilot them at primary healthcare facilities (in the municipalities of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti) based on the clinical topics selected jointly with the Ministry of Health of Georgia.
At this stage, the Ministry of Health of Georgia has approved six out of 10 developed clinical protocols. Based on those documents, Caritas Czech Republic experts have already started to train doctors and nurses in the Dusheti Municipality.
“Over the next two years, we will provide rural doctors with the most up-to-date and evidence-based practice from the world clinical practice. This will guarantee that a patient in a rural ambulatory receives the same quality of service as a citizen in the best clinic in the capital,” says Nato Shengelia, a family doctor and Caritas Czech Republic expert.
“We have been engaged in training based on the improved protocols since June 2021,” says Lamara Paghava, a family doctor in Choporti village, Dusheti municipality. “Currently, we are undergoing the module about arterial hypertension. I’m a family doctor, responsible for three districts of the village, 1600 people in total. Seasonal variability in blood pressure is a common problem for numerous patients here and new approaches and standards are very important for my work.”
Project experts are also working on creating a system for improving the quality of PHC services and facility-level performance management through intensive clinical training and supportive supervision of ambulatories’ medical personnel.
Comprehensive IT Solutions to PHC
One of the core challenges to improving PHC is digitalization of medical services and health systems. Compared to manual registration, electronic medical records are characterized by much greater accuracy and a higher proportion of correct information. Besides, this practice requires less time and finances.
Caritas Czech Republic is working to create a unified and standardized e-management information system. In addition, it will introduce countrywide e-queue management, telemedicine, and e–referral management systems to the Georgian healthcare system.
“A unified medical record system will facilitate the collection of patient information at the PHC level and contribute to informed medical decisions,” says Marina Shikhashvili, an expert in family medicine and Caritas Czech Republic project expert. “In addition, a unified e-queue management system is a very convenient tool for receiving medical services in one space. A unified electronic information system also created within the project will be the most important tool for those clinics which do not have internal electronic systems for data-collection.”
“PHC has a “gatekeeping” function in the whole healthcare system, the main purpose of which is ensuring that a majority of patients receive basic medical services at the primary level and, consequently, the next levels of the health care are not overloaded,” says Rusudan Chkhubianishvili, Caritas Czech Republic project manager.
CCR Contributing to Georgia’s Healthcare
Within the Czech Development Agency supported project, Caritas Czech Republic carries out activities in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Georgia and the Emergency Situation Coordination and Urgent Assistance Center (ESCUAC). The project will ultimately benefit the whole of Georgia, as the results of all deliverables will be handed over to the Ministry.
Currently, the project is being piloted in the selected municipalities of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions. At the same time, the project continues to enhance the system of quality measurement and improvement at five pilot medical facilities in Tbilisi as part of Phase I. In total, 46 primary medical facilities will be included in the project.
By Nina Kopaleishvili – PR and Communication Officer, Caritas Czech Republic in Georgia