Patient sms feed back from out Teaching Hospitals


You would have read we have on reports in the Nigerian press that an sms feedback service has been launched by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with MTN and Glo mobile. In a press release on their website (Yes the website is being used!) our honourable minister said that the launch of this scheme was driven by reports to his ministry of a consistent rise in the volume of complaints regarding health care delivery in the country. He is quoted as saying;

“complaints have centered principally around the poor state of infrastructure and equipment, insufficient number of well-trained medical personnel, particularly the poor attitude of such personnel”

Our immediate thoughts were extremely positive. The attitude of a large proportion of colleagues working in our public establishments leave a lot to be desired. Patients are kept waiting for hours, talked to in  condescending way and sent around hospitals in various wild goose chases. But this is not the case in just our hospitals – it is the same in the ministries, universities, embassies etc. We have just not paid sufficient attention to how our prized assets are being managed. Yes conditions of service are often poor…but sometimes that are things that are simply inexplicable….If you have any doubts…..walk into any of our teaching hospitals and seek an appointment…..even in our National Hospital!

Despite our joys at this development, our immediate worry was ….what will happen to the texts once they arrive at our Federal Ministry?. To answer this our honourable minister had this to say…

Comments received will be analyzed regularly and the ministry will utilize the feed back to work with the relevant medical centre and authorities to improve their systems or reward performance.

Sir …with all due respect….this is not enough. We live in the information age. This service is being offered by technological firms. It will be very easy to put all this information up in the public domain vai a website so that WE the people can make informed choices on which hospitals we want to take our children to. So that WE the people can hold the Chief Medical Directors and their boards directly responsible.

If the Ministry does not do this…finally the people will!

Impossible? No…In the UK…a few years ago the same problems existed. Until  Dr Foster was first launched to the public in January 2001 with publication of the Hospital Guide with details of availability and standards of local health services. Today it is the most respected source of data not only on the performance of hospitals as here, but on the performance of individual consultants!

We applaud this initiative by our Federal Ministry – but there is no incentive for patients to text as long as all the texts they send will end up in a big black hole in the Federal Ministry of Health.

 It will be great if the Ministry will do something really visionary and put that information in the public domain. If not – it just might be a development idea for Nigeria Health Watch! 🙂

Have a great week!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Hi, I came across your blog and find it very insightful on health matters! I am amazed you have the time to stay this current knowing a typical doc’s schedule!
    Anyway about the patient sms feed back, do we really need the govt to that for us? cant a private firm do it? and as I wrote I remember that there are powers that be who can bribe MTN to toss the line or arrest the people behind it. so maybe not….as easy but still possible. Thank God for social networks, you would be amazed at what can be accomplished. Why not start with a survey based on patient satisfaction? will love to hear what u have to say..

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