Uganda embraces digital health innovation

National Health Information Exchange Registries Services Components launched

Kampala, Uganda | PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | Uganda is at the forefront of a groundbreaking digital health transformation, harnessing the power of innovative technologies to revolutionise healthcare delivery and address long-standing inefficiencies.

The recently concluded Uganda Digital Health Conference 2023, held under the theme “Leveraging Digital Health to Improve Efficiency in Service Delivery,” catalysed exploration and collaboration. It brought ogether healthcare experts, policymakers, technology partners, and patient communities to chart a course towards a more efficient, accessible, and patient-centred healthcare system

Uganda’s healthcare system grapples with a range of inefficiencies that hinder the delivery of quality care and strain healthcare resources. Fragmented patient records scattered across different healthcare providers, limited access to specialised care, particularly in rural and underserved areas, and inefficient resource allocation due to a lack of real-time data and manual processes are just a few of the challenges that healthcare providers and patients encounter daily.

While speaking at the two-day conference held on the 13th and 14th at Kampala Serena Hotel, the minister of Health, Dr Ruth Aceng said that technology is an essential solution in the pursuit of digital health.

“Digital health tools emerge as a beacon of hope, offering a range of innovative approaches to streamline care, expand access, and optimize resource utilisation. We are witnessing a digital revolution that holds immense promise for improving patients’ outcomes,” she said.

In the same vein, Dr Aceng launched the National Health Information Exchange Registries Services Components which stands as a testament to the Ministry of Health’s commitment to leveraging digital health for the betterment of communities.

“The Electronic Medical Record System has been rolled out in 13 bigger hospitals, both national and regional, as the Ministry of Health plans discussions and preparations to roll out in lower facilities,”

Dr Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, added that going digital means that we will have efficiency because the information will be accessible anywhere and in real-time to facilitate decision-making.

“As the Ministry we are determined to have one standard system which will help us to combat absenteeism, monitor performance, commodity accountability, efficiency in service delivery, easy decision-making based on real-time data, etc as a government, we are committed to working together with our partners to Build capacity for health workers to use the required technology we are introducing, strengthen cybersecurity, avail required equipment and realize change management.”

The conference also underscored the crucial role of data analytics in extracting valuable insights from the vast amounts of data generated by digital health technologies.

“By analyzing patient data, healthcare providers can identify patterns, predict potential health risks, track treatment outcomes, and make informed decisions to improve patient care, optimize resource allocation, and ensure that resources are directed to areas of greatest need,” said Paul Mbaka, Assistant Commissioner Division of Health Information at the Ministry of Health.

A key takeaway from the conference was the emphasis on collaboration as the cornerstone of successful digital health implementation and sustainability.

“Healthcare providers, policymakers, technology partners, patient communities, and academia must work together to ensure that digital health initiatives are tailored to the specific needs of Uganda’s healthcare system, address the challenges faced by healthcare providers and patients, align with national healthcare goals, and are sustainable in the long term,” Dr Aceng emphasised.

The rising internet penetration rate in Uganda, which stood at 35% in 2022 and is projected to reach 50% by 2025, further enhances the potential for digital health technologies. With increased connectivity, individuals can access health-related information and services remotely, expanding the reach of healthcare providers.

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