Following on from the Wilton Park event, (Re)building health systems in West Africa: what role for ICT and mobile technologies, there’s plenty of enthusiasm for expanding eHealth’s role after the Ebola crises. A report in mPowering summarise the key findings as:
- ICT and mobile are a critical part of rebuilding health systems, but must be interoperable, integrated logically and responds to the actual, not perceived health workers needs
- Data and information sharing can enable rapid responses to emergencies, but only if the most relevant data is collected and used
- There’s a role and responsibility for all sectors that must work together with common objectives
- Efforts need to be government-led
- Moving from fragmented, project-based activities needs new kinds of collaborations with clear roles and shared responsibilities to support resilient health systems
- Aid and investment must support countries to develop the infrastructure, infostructure and skilled health workforces needed to respond to future health emergencies.
Pape Amadou Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International, set out his views on the foundations for more and better eHealth. These underpin the changes identified at the conference, and aim to deal with the challenge of the advent of digital solutions that has improved data collection techniques and quality that has not yet liberated data too often lying dormant in government databases and left to departments that may not be prepared to use or disseminate them properly.
Taking full advantage of eHealth’s promise of building stronger health systems, three challenges need addressing:
- Governance, information management and behaviour-change training to address the remaining cultural and bureaucratic bottlenecks and encourage the adoption and creation of new governance platforms for mHealth and ICT that will help build trust, instil transparency, and move forward effectively
- Culture for using and sharing data can be improved and be part of routine practice, training, and mentality, so cultivate data use, and foster greater sharing and collaboration
- Infrastructure, where the simplicity and wide availability of mobile phones offer ample opportunities for mHealth and global information-sharing, but there are still limitations to overcome, including countries needing sufficient networks, bandwidth, and electricity to harness mHealth’s real power.
All these are vital components of eHealth strategies. Is the core message from the event that Africa’s health systems need to reset their eHealth strategies?