Digital health plan way to go

Friday March 15 2019

The forthcoming 7th East African Health and Scientific Conference is an opportunity for Tanzania and, indeed the rest of East Africa to assess progress made in efforts to improve outcomes in the health delivery systems – which are still blighted by major weaknesses.

Arguably, what will be of major interest during the March 27-29 summit and exhibition in Dar es Salaam is the launch of an ambitious regional digital health plan, which is aimed at improving outreach of medical services. The conference will lay the ground for the mobilisation of resources for the initiative.

EAC heads of state have already approved the strategy to roll out digital technology to transform health service delivery. This was a good thing to do – and it is line with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation that governments should lead the way with strong national healthcare policies and strategies in order to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

Technology in health systems can play a big role in helping the region as a whole to achieve that target. But for this to happen, governments need to mobilise resources. Last December, the East African Community (EAC) appealed for funding to ensure the success of the digital health plan.

The EAC noted that this plan would be critical for research and development. Besides, the world has gone digital. At the moment, only a few health centres seem to be part of the digital health network. That should change.

In various sectors in Tanzania, for example, digital system has helped to speed up assessment and service delivery. Worth noting is how it is fast making the country’s tax administration more efficient.

Surely, a new generation of digitised health services, covering rural and urban areas in Tanzania and the rest of the region should not be a farfetched dream.