The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has developed and is seeking to fully implement a programme geared at assisting critical elements of health care locally.
Through the Health Sector Metrology Programme, the BSJ is encouraging and making itself available to ensure accuracy, reliability and traceability of measurements used in diagnosis, treatment and verification activities.
Explaining how the programme will be implemented, Engineering & Metrology Co-ordinator at the BSJ, Richard Lawrence, points out that the initiative is focused on calibrating the basic equipment and devices that are used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who need primary health care. These devices include: blood pressure machines, thermometers, pipettes, burettes, balances and scales.
“Calibration is a check to see that measurement is in conformance or is in line with an established standard,” the Co-ordinator explains, adding that the calibration services of the Bureau help users of the measuring instruments and standards to obtain the highest possible levels of measurement quality and to conform to quality system requirements.
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He notes too that metrology, which is the science of measurement, plays a key role in industry, international trade and in everyday life, as accurate and reliable measurements are critical in assuring product quality, and in supporting environmental, health and safety issues.
Mr. Lawrence informs JIS News that the programme was officially launched on May 21 this year, in observance of World Metrology Day, with the BSJ making a presentation to medical personnel, operators of medical facilities and diagnostic services and the public who utilise these services; and highlighting the programme’s goal, objectives and benefits.
“We are looking to establish a partnership with the Ministry of Health where we collect data to determine the medical devices that fall within our range of capabilities presently, and prepare a plan of action to calibrate right across the country,” Mr. Lawrence highlights.
He adds that the plan of action will have timelines and will assist the BSJ to determine the duration for the coverage of the various regional health authorities and facilities across the island. He notes too that the partnership will allow for accredited labs to work with the BSJ in undertaking this extensive calibration exercise.
The Co-ordinator says that a pilot project was conducted with select health centres in the South Eastern Regional Health Authority to determine the devices commonly used and whether they were calibrated.
He explains that the overall aim is to establish a programme or structure where these basic devices are routinely calibrated in order to alleviate occurrences of erroneous readings and misdiagnosis.
“In the US, a study was conducted in 2008 and they estimated that the cost for erroneous diagnosis and treatment exceeded US$1billion in that year alone,” Mr. Lawrence points out.
He reveals that the pilot project gave some interesting results in terms of the devices that were checked for calibration.
“For the most part, the devices were in conformance but there were some that had to be adjusted. What that says to us is that in a small sample size we could find devices that were out, then it would mean that in the larger population of Jamaica, there is a proliferation of these errors,” the Co-ordinator reasons.
Endorsing the programme, Laboratory Head of Flow and Volume Metrology at the BSJ, Tanisha Wallace, stresses the importance of traceability in the overall success of the programme.
“What we realise in our industries today is that there is not a lot of traceability, there is not a connectivity of actions as it pertains to calibration…so what you might find is that somebody purchases an instrument, it comes with a certificate and they use it for the entire period of the equipment’s use. We find that there is no documentation if the measurements are reading erroneously after some time or if they are reading correctly,” Ms. Wallace tells JIS News.
She says the health sector has to become more aware and understand the importance of traceability.
“We have to try and instill in our health sector that these instruments need to be traceable. So, we are seeking to implement this programme to get a level of accuracy for our equipment and from there we will be able to get better readings and to do better diagnosis of patients,” she maintains.
As it relates to the feedback and buy-in from the target groups, Public Education & Information Co-ordinator at the BSJ, Ellis Laing, says that so far, there have been mixed reactions, thus the need for increased public education on the importance of the overall programme.
“If we are working towards a vision 2030, where persons are going to seek to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work and do business, then there is the need for persons to be guaranteed proper health services,” Mr. Laing says.
“We need to become more proactive in managing our own health care. Health care is not just the responsibility of the medical doctors, pharmacists and nurses. We are asking persons to become more vigilant in ensuring and asking your health care providers to assure you that the equipment and devices have been calibrated,” the Public Education Co-ordinator urges.
The Health Sector Metrology Programme will be implemented in phases with focus on calibration of the basic devices in the first year, followed by an assessment of the overall programme and impact of coverage.
The second phase will include more extensive coverage of other sections of the health sector, training within the sector and exposure to international practices as it relates to calibration and metrology.
“Metrology, the science of measurement, really impacts every single person and the things we do. If we are travelling from one point to the other, there is the matter of measurement; and accessing food items in quantities in stores and supermarkets, there is metrology involved. We will make an issue if we do not get our money’s worth for our food items that we purchase, so we should insist on getting value for our money in terms of our health,” Mr. Laing tells JIS News.
The Bureau of Standards Jamaica serves as the national metrology institute and provides metrology services locally and internationally.
By Kadian Brown, JIS PRO