Embracing ICT to Improve Health Outcomes: A Government Commitment

The Ministry of Health (MOH) recognizes the need to harness Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to improve service delivery and quality of care with resultant improvement in health outcomes. Onesmus Kamau, the Head of the e-Health Development Unit shares the Ministry’s vision.

What is the Ministry’s policy position on the use of ICT in the health sector?

The Ministry has fully embraced the use of ICT in the health sector. There are a number of policy documents that clearly articulate this, including the Kenya National e-Health policy 2016 - 2030, Kenya standards and guidelines for m-Health systems (2017),Health Information System Policy, ICT Policy, and the draft e-Health Strategy 2018 - 2021. MoH is encouraging and sensitizing county governments and other stakeholders to make use of these documents as they design and develop e-Health solutions. Our next step is to develop minimum standards for various ICT applications in the health sector, so as to harmonize investments and guarantee quality.

What is the status of adoption and application of telemedicine in Kenya?

Telemedicine is still at infancy despite Kenya having one of the fastest growing ICT sectors and the highest mobile phone penetration in the Eastern Africa region. Some of the challenges that explain this include inadequate funding of e-health systems and innovations, low ICT literacy and limited skills in health informatics amongst users, and poor Internet connectivity in some areas. We also have a challenge of multiple e-Health platforms which don’t go beyond the pilot phase due to: short-term funding, lack of interoperability across platforms, lack of standardization, weak regulatory frameworks and inadequate involvement of users at development stages.

One of the keys to successful development and application of e-health solutions is in leveraging on Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) to mobilize financial and intellectual capital. How is the Ministry leveraging on PPP?

Absolutely, PPPs presents a great opportunity to innovate and scale up e-health solutions. As a Ministry we are cognizant of this and welcome partnerships with private sector players. Examples include the Managed Equipment Services and the Healthcare IT Initiatives that the government launched in recent years. The success of these PPP initiatives will inform more engagements including in e-health. In addition, as a national government we are encouraging county governments to tap into the potential of e-health and establish local partnerships to bridge inadequacies in their resources and capacity. With concerted efforts, we have no doubt that eHealth can help the country achieve our Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda.

What more needs to be done and by whom, to accelerate seamless integration of telemedicine and other e-health solutions into conventional healthcare systems?

The key lies in building stronger and sustainable partnerships amongst stakeholders. The government will provide an enabling environment to facilitate e-health innovations and continuously improve the functionality of the wider health system. The MoH will continue improving its stewardship role including putting in place appropriate polices, standards and guidelines to guide investments in health-related ICT. Investments from partners will remain critical, but more emphasis is needed on adopting common approaches, adhering to standards and ensuring e-health solutions address priority needs of the health system.