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Digital health promises superb service delivery

THE government is committed to improving the application of digital health technologies to attain its objective of delivering high quality health services to its citizens.

This is evidenced by the implementation of previous National e-Health Strategy (2013- 2018) which worked to accelerate transformation of the health system by enabling timely access to information and supporting healthcare administrative, financial and clinical operations to enhance decision making.

The importance of digital health technologies for the sector are on the government priority, where Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa last week launched the country’s new digital health strategy to ensure transparency and reliable data for effective decision-making.

During the launching, he said the National Digital Health Strategy (2019-2024) will enable the government to allocate resources for the most health impact, and factor in information like an accurate picture of the population.

With real time data, he said they will be able to take proper measures and improve skills and training for frontline health workers, especially in emergent diseases while improving the ultimate goal of using digital tools to improve health outcomes.

Director of Curative Services in the Ministry of Health, Grace Magembe said the digital health strategy and digital library will give stakeholder access to information on existing health initiatives and documents. The five-year digital health strategy will facilitate digital health and improve health services in the country.

“The strategy establishes the government of Tanzania as a global leader in digital healthcare and paves the way for better patient treatment outcomes,” said the director. He said the National Digital Health Strategy is in line with Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and the Health Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), thus emphasizing provision of quality health care to all households.

The National Digital Health Strategy was developed as a result of strong government leadership, and will help to build consensus on policy, facilitate better use of shared resources and ensure investment in digital skills and infrastructure, ultimately leading to more efficient health system and better health outcomes.

The critical component of the strategy was governance, which added value to the government’s new digital health strategy. The bodies that will be primarily responsible for implementing the strategy and programme are the National Digital Health Steering Committees (NDHSC) and the National Digital Health Secretariat (NDHS).

To ensure effective implementation of the strategy, Ms Magembe said the government will also launch a technical working group, an online platform that will digitalize activities of health sector technical working groups.

Ms Magembe explained that the new strategic plan was in line with the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, the Health Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020) and other key policies advancing the country’s efforts to build an end to end interoperable digital health system.

“A national digital health system will enable the government to set aside resources for the most health impact, and enable real time data on emerging disease cases to prevent epidemics,” she said.

For his part, Director of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Haji Bamisi noted that the strategy built on and directly responded to what was learnt from previous strategies (2013-2018).

He said for the design of the new strategy the government consulted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union National e-Health Strategy Toolkit. He said the strategy identified 10 strategic priorities ranging from the need to strengthen digital governance and leadership and the importance of improving the supply chain management of health products.

Mr Bamisi went on stating that the strategy will enable the government to advance the country’s efforts to build an end to end, interoperable digital health system while cementing the country as a global leader in digital health.

A number of measures have been drawn to ensure smooth implementation of the strategy, which includes day to day undertaking by National Digital Health Technical Committee which will provide progress updates to promote collaboration and prevent duplication of efforts.

Moreover, the strategy will be implemented in accordance with national policies, and engage stakeholders, among others. Regional and districts governing bodies will be engaged to cascade down implementation in the form of Regional Health Management teams, Council Health Management Teams, Institutional Digital Health Committees and Health Facility Digital Health Committees.

The efforts will be critical to the Digital Health Strategy in the long term, thus changing the status quo within the health facilities, organisations and health systems with interactions of people and technology. Evidence suggests that sustainable change and adoption of technologies is more often the result of organisation culture than the technical issues associated with adopting new tools and platforms.

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Mwandishi: NELLY MTEMA

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