RE: “MoH seeks to revamp sector” (The New Times, September 28).
Kudos to the Ministry of Health (MoH) for coming up with the health sector transformation plan! However, I wish to add a few points.
African health sectors can only be transformed through the use of ICTs. MoH needs to come up with a viable and working ICT in health strategy in order to leap frog and ensure tremendous gains in service delivery. The International Telecommunication Union and World Health Organisation developed an e-health national strategy toolkit, easily searchable online.
I have picked some pointers relevant to Rwanda and based on my own personal experience:
1. National vision for e-health: This is an important aspect and the process to bring stakeholders to agree on a vision around transformation of the health sector was a strategic move. This ensures everyone owns and buys into the vision.
Regular monitoring of the e-health component in sector meetings is very important to ensure all stakeholders stay focused whilst addressing the inevitable challenges.
2. E-health services: A quick win is to put much needed health services through Irembo platform for the common man.
I would propose mutuelle de santé services, even a simple service as checking status of mutuelle through phone/cyber cafés would really help the rural folk who has to spend days in queue for such a service.
MoH internal services, such as disease surveillance, need to be online for example malaria which caught Rwandans off guard.
- Infrastructure: MoH should ensure a realistic and phased rollout of connectivity to hospitals (which unfortunately is very much dependent on electricity). This will require a tight working relationship with Rwanda Energy Group to ensure they harmonize plans and avoid waste of resources.
Ensuring that hospitals have working computers/printers…for simple registration goes a long way in efficiency in service delivery.
4. Standards and interoperability: MoH needs to ensure standards so that systems can work with each other. For example use of hospital records should be standard so when eventually online hospitals can easily interact ensuring someone in Musanze be able to access his medical records if he gets treatment in Kigali, avoiding the frustrating effort of accessing his records.
5. Relevant legislation: IT is important to have this in place. Imagine a doctor leaking your medical information that is online and he is able to access and sending on social media; or a medical institution giving your records to pharmaceutical companies for information or research.
There is a need to ensure that the patient is protected through privacy laws.
6. Workforce: MoH needs to focus on its medical workforce in IT trainings as well as ensure hospitals have adequate IT teams well trained to provide much needed support.
7. Private sector participation: E-health innovations and software are a key component and MoH can facilitate this by ensuring health data are easily accessible and online (but secured). E.g. information on location of health centers can help a bright TVET student to come up with a health app relevant for a particular corner of the country, creating employment for him, and assisting the people to access better services online.
Best wishes to the Ministry of Health in transforming the health sector.