Digital Health Week is a global moment where CSOs governments, private companies and health institutions come together to champion digital health for UHC. Digital technology offers a big opportunity to help achieve Universal Health Coverage. Together, we can bridge the technical-political divide and ensure digitally enabled health systems are equipped to provide health for all. For progress towards Universal Health Coverage, we must break out of siloes, build effective partnerships and put digital health on the political agenda, because digital health is everyone’s business.
Digital Health week 2022 took place between 10th -16th October with the overarching goal of bringing together digital health actors to discuss how to bridge the technical-political divide that hinders progress towards achieving universal health coverage. I participated in the Digital Health Summit hosted by NivalishePad Initiative. I gave a keynote speech on Digital Health Governance- Sharing Best Practices in Kenya.
During my presentations, I pointed out that mHealth/digital health offers immense opportunity to improve health service delivery and augment universal health coverage. In Kenya currently, mobile and smartphone penetration is at over 80%, meaning that there is a huge potential to leverage this penetration to provide healthcare services and reduce the cost of accessing health. Digital health offers real opportunities to improve medical outcomes and enhance efficiency.
With the advancement in technology, patients and healthcare consumers are empowered to make better-informed decisions about their own health and provide new options for facilitating prevention diagnosis of life-threatening diseases, and management of chronic conditions outside of traditional health care settings. Crucially, digital health is laden with opportunities to reduce inefficiencies, improve access to health care, increase quality, reduces costs (the overarching goal of UHC)
Kenya’s E-Health Ecosystem
I also shared about Kenya’s E-Health ecosystem, noting that Kenya has made significant strides towards incorporating e-health into the health infrastructure. I was keen to acknowledge that Kenya developed the National E-Health Strategy (2014-2030) as a blueprint towards attainment of the highest standard of health through adoption and use of ICT. Globally, there are concerted efforts to harness the immense opportunity offered by digital health. Kenya is among countries that have recognized the opportunities that come with technology, even though progress on this front is often hindered by high cost of e-health systems and innovation, low ICT literacy among users, lack of interoperability of e-health systems, fragmentation and the risk of violation of patient’s privacy and confidentiality.
My research on Digital Health
In finishing my presentation, I shared about my research; INCORPORATING MHEALTH INTERVENTIONS INTO KENYA’S HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE TO AUGMENT UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE (https://doi.org/10.11576/seejph-4317). This was a systematic review of mHealth interventions and their potential to be used at scale to buttress UHC. The researched critically appraised mHealth and gave recommendation on how to integrate mHealth into Kenya’s health infrastructure. Informed by my research recommendations, I reiterated that for mHealth interventions to be fully optimized in Kenya, the existing forms of mHealth interventions must ensure efficiency which is a component of usability. Similarly, an effective regulatory framework must be developed to inform implementation of mHealth solutions. Government must also forge partnerships with NGOs implementing mHealth solutions and focus on increasing investment in technology and infrastructure.
Call to action
I guess you are familiar with this African Prover, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together’. I honestly believe that bridging the digital divide to achieve health for all cannot be left to certain individuals. We all have a role to play in this, either as innovators, supporters, advocates or users. Together, we can bridge the technical-political divide and ensure digitally enabled health systems are equipped to provide health for all.