Challenges, is a nice way of describing inhibitors, and eHealth’s full of them. In Africa, they’re pervasive and hard to remove. Ignoring them doesn’t work. They won’t go away.
There are many different types of eHealth. The potential to improve health and healthcare is considerable. The probability they will is problematic. It’s helpful to spread out an array of contributions before delving into the details. This strategic context is the African Centre for eHealth Excellence’s (Acfee) approach to finding a good fit to eHealth priorities.
Acfee’s dialogue with its Advisory Board and industry partners at the African eHealth Forum (AeF) identified an enormous range of eHealth challenges, more than 60 of them. The AeF report Advancing eHealth in Africa sets out more details.
Africa’s eHealth challenges are the critical theme to emerge from the 2015 Forum. Its scale and scope exceed eHealth’s other facets, and it’s essential that countries identify and fix these alongside and before eHealth investment. Countries need to ask several questions. What are our relative priorities? How do we decide? How do we fix them? When do we fix them?
A simple picture shows how the challenges are broader than other eHealth topics. It’s an illustrative measure of their relative scale and importance.
Many participants were surprised at the scale of the eHealth challenges identified in the Forum. They include measures to deal with them in their eHealth policies, strategies and implementation plans. Countries need to allocate resources to put in place the eHealth enablers to overcome them. There are several ways to do this, and they revolve around integrating and timing eHealth enablers and eHealth applications.
Acfee’s incorporating the new information on eHealth challenges into its eHealth curriculum and courses, eHealth leadership models and human eHealth capacity services, and preparing bespoke advice to countries and projects to provide them.
An example of the scale is in the diagram.
It’s only about half the number of challenges identified by the Forum. Another diagram’s in the AeF report along with a classification of:
- Relationships with suppliers
- eHealth performance
- Health informatics
- Business cases
- Benefits realisation
- Regulation and governance
- Medical education
- Country scale.
Dealing with this extensive range of eHealth challenges needs a set of steps. Acfee’s earlier research and evaluations of eHealth provides some suggestions. Successful eHealth has shown that the challenges can be addressed in sequence alongside eHealth projects. Success requires that the sequence is right, the measures to deal with them are effective, and that eHealth leadership is of the right type to succeed. Steps are:
- Identify specific eHealth challenges in eHealth strategy
- Develop risk mitigation plans to track their impact and significance
- Select the challenges relevant for each eHealth project in the strategy
- Select the sequence needed for maximised benefits from successful eHealth
- Design the measures needed to deal with effectively
- Allocate resources to them
- Implement them alongside the eHealth project.
As part of the risk assessment and mitigation, it’s essential that countries and suppliers are clear about the challenges that need fixing for success and maximised benefits. While countries are often clear about the eHealth challenges face, it’s vital the vendors are too.