Health Systems improvement through e-Health: Uganda’s case
The government of Uganda through its Ministry of Health recognized e-health in the Health Sector Development Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20 as a key enabler for supporting the health system in order to deliver good health to the Ugandan population (MoH, 2016).
From the local to the national level,
ICT is changing how health care is delivered and how health systems are run. It supports critical functions by improving the ability to gather, analyse, manage and exchange information in all areas of health, from research to large-scale humanitarian interventions and disaster relief. In health systems, information and communication technologies are being used to improve the timeliness and accuracy of public health reporting and to facilitate disease monitoring and surveillance. They are fundamental in distance learning, and in enabling rapid response in emergencies.
Despite the evident advantages of eHealth, many countries including Uganda have failed to move eHealth from the periphery to the centre of strategic health planning. This is largely demonstrated by the current landscape of eHealth development in developing country contexts which is characterized by a proliferation of unsustainable pilot projects that often expire once initial funding is exhausted. For example, in Uganda alone there were 23 mHealth initiatives in 2008 and 2009 that did not scale up after the pilot phase.
In addition, Uganda also aims to embrace technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data & Open Data, Data Analytics, Smart Systems, Digital Services and Internet of Things. These technologies have been adopted but not in an organized way. There is need to formalize their adoption and utilization to gain targeted benefits from them. There are also some continuously emerging technologies that are upcoming and used in an isolated manner and need to be explored for utilization. Although some infrastructure exists, it remains insufficient to support the effective and efficient implementation of e-Health. The Digital Health Atlas therefore provides an opportunity to coordinate the significant investments being made which allows the Ministry of Health and its partners.
Through the Uganda UK Health Alliance consortium on e-Health, several Organisations are collaborating on common activities to scale up e-Health, a number of eHealth organisations from the UK have been supported by the alliance to present and have their e-health Systems assessed at Ministry of Health.