- Africa’s not yet investing much in Big Data compared to the global trend. It’s revealed in the WHO Global eHealth Survey 2015. An article in Healthcare Informatics, by Joe Mario, founder of Healthcare Integration Strategies, sets out two requirements for success that Africa’s health systems should adopt:
- Capture useful data in the proper format needed
- Have the analytic tools needed to extract meaningful information.
He also implies that healthcare organisation’s need to set up a data mining unit. He could’ve added a fourth requirement, having people with the analytic skills to design and run the data capture and use the analytic tools effectively. All four Big Data components are in short supply across Africa.
He sets out two organisational options. One is a centralised Big Data unit of analytic specialists supporting healthcare teams. The other’s decentralised, where each healthcare provider has its own team. For Africa, a decentralised model seems unrealistic until enough analytic specialists are available and affordable.
Setting up a centralised model needs a long-term plan to recruit, develop and retain analytic specialists. Success depends on health ministries working closely with universities to ensure a steady stream to build up a steady stream of health analytics specialists. The pace and scale needs to match the equivalent endeavour for health informatics specialists and the availability of data sources such as EHRs.
There are many other competing demands for these eHealth resources and tight affordability constraints. These combine to create a scenario where Africa’s Big Data programmes are likely to be relatively small, highly focused and provided by small, centralised teams. A big step forward’s including something like this in the next round of eHealth strategies.