A national ICT framework that facilitates alignment between health and ICT sectors supported by effective governance mechanisms – and importantly, sustained senior government leadership and committed financing – are critical for the success of digital health at national levels.
Recounting experiences and associated developments particularly in the African context, Florence Gaudry-Perkins, founder and CEO of the Paris-based Digital Health Partnerships explained in her Africa Health Management Conference presentation at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, this week that by 2017, 23 African countries had already developed digital strategies for their healthcare delivery and management systems.
Digital health stumbling blocks commonly faced by countries at the outset include lack of common standards and appropriate legislation for digital health, insufficient human and technical capacity to collect and analyse health data, and lack of co-ordination between national ICT plans and national digital health strategies.
A notable exception in Africa, said Gaudry-Perkins, has been Rwanda with a personal interest and resulting co-operation at the highest level: “They have a very efficient system already up and running as a result. I come from France where some associates who have noticed Rwanda’s progress have gone so far as to suggest it be brought to the attention of the French government!”
A significant benefit achievable with the successful implementation of these technologies is the ability to reduce costs and increase efficiencies of healthcare systems: “Here they have the ability to use real-time data to make surveillance action-orientated and as such respond to health priorities.
“The promise of digital health also includes empowering patients to take more responsibility in the management of their own health, at the same time empowering providers with support systems.
“Importantly,” Gaudry-Perkins added, “it facilitates communication between providers, patients and communities.”