• Strategy
  • Smart phone growth helps mHealth and healthcare strategies

    Clinical applications for mobile phones and devices are emerging steadily from research activities. At the same time, research by Lewis et al says that “Developing countries are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of users of cellphone and internet technologies, as well as a decline in the price of devices and services”.

    These two changes have implications for mHealth initiatives in African countries. The most important is that it creates an opportunity for African countries to develop their mHealth projects alongside the growth in the market. As the number of smart phones and their technology expands, their use by health workers for clinical activities expands too. New apps for health promotion and communicating with patients, carers and communities should help to expand mHealth beyond its SMS role.

    In an article in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, Maurice Mars from South Africa’s Telemedicine Association (SATMA) says that “We are right at the beginning of the movement in South Africa” and that “the technological environment is not advanced enough to handle many of the proposed mHealth initiatives.”

    The article identifies several types of apps that monitor sleeping patterns, diagnose skin cancer or, in the very near future, check to see if your child is on drugs. It describes two mHealth initiatives underway in South Africa, including:

    MoleDetective OculusID.

    Whilst the mHealth opportunities keep coming, it also brings familiar constraints. Lewis et al also says that these initiatives need ”more sustainable sources of funding, greater support for the adoption of new technologies and better ways of evaluating impact are required.” This is a never-ending challenge, and is bigger than Lewis et al suggest. For Africa, using mHealth to meet demand also needs health workers to provide the increased number of treatments identified by mHealth. In this way, mHealth helps to strengthen health systems.

    eHealth strategies in Africa have tough affordability constraints, but mHealth may offer lower cost and earlier benefits than bigger-scale investment like EHRs. An opportunity is emerging for Africa to catch a rising tide of mHealth. The alternative is to stand on the shore and watch these opportunities come and go.

  • Extra proposals needed for African eHealth Strategies

    As eHealth News Africa (eHNA) enters its third month, the material assembled by the editorial team is showing expanding opportunities to improve health and healthcare. Some new challenges have also emerged. A review of eHNA’s material, both posted and retained, shows that, in addition to the current themes like interoperability, information architecture, EHRs, telemedicine and health information management systems, eHealth strategies need to set out proposals to deal with:

    Clinical applications using mobile phones and devices as an expanding resource for health workers Social media to communicate with patients, carers and communities Cloud computing, with safeguards for its use eHealth regulation alongside telecommunications regulation and data protection law eHealth regulation compliance Cyber-security to combat growing cyber-threats Procurement and accreditation for eHealth Managed eHealth markets and supply chains Rigorous, long-term risk management and mitigation New capabilities to deal with these.

    These bring resource and affordability implications that can change the rate of progress within very limited eHealth budgets. They also can bring considerable benefits directly to patients, carers, communities, health workers and healthcare provider organisations. eHNA posts material on all these, and new topics as they emerge, and provides a valuable source of references and examples from countries that provide lessons for Africa.

  • Spotlight on space strategy and satellites

    Launching and using satellites for the benefit of a region is a complex endeavour requiring progress on three fronts: political, financial, and technical. Just last week Africa benefited from progress in all three.

    On the policy frontier, Africa’s Space Working Group met for the third time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on a draft African Space Policy, as well as a framework for developing a draft Space Strategy. Due to the costly and elaborate nature of space activities, a coordinated and collaborative framework between African nations will be vital to these programmes’ success. The proposed policy and framework are now to be put forth for adoption by the AU. This political support and framework are often the first key steps in securing stable funding for the development, construction, and operation of satellites.

    Technologically, North Africa will benefit from the successful launch of the EUTELSAT25B/Es’hail 1 satellite earlier in 2013. The 6.3 tonne telecommunications satellite will become operational late October, with satellite capacity provided by both EUTELSAT (France) and Es’hailSat (Qatar) to the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.

    As additional bandwidth providers like Es’hailSat enter the market, the cost of satellite communications will decrease, making it more affordable and accessible for use in the provision of eHealth services.

    African countries can start developing their eHealth plans to begin to take advantage of this new, cheaper facility. It can aid their mHealth and clinical information sharing projects.

  • Ghana's cyber security strategy with ITU underway

    Ghana’s National Government has made a commitment to transform the ICT sector, by putting in place policies and regulations to create an enabling environment for ICT. Deputy Minister for Communications, Victoria Hamah, announced that the national cyber security strategy is already under development.

    The National Government has signed an agreement with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to develop a National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to respond to all security threats that may affect national security or the well-being of Ghanaians using the Internet. These new developments provide Ghana with the capacity and technical capabilities needed to deal effectively to cyber-crimes and cyber-attacks.

    ”This project demonstrates the commitment of Ghana to unleash the full potential of ICT by ensuring security in cyberspace and building trust and confidence in the use of the Internet,” said Minister of Communications Edward Omane Boamah.

    The project sets a template for African countries to ensure that their regulations follow their ICT developments and initiatives. It is crucial that ICT is adequately regulated and secure for eHealth to flourish.

    You may be interested in Most health data breaches are cyber-crimes.

  • Kenya's ambitious broadband strategy

    Kenya has launched an extensive plan to boost internet speeds and rollout digital services to remote areas. The roll out will cost the country Sh257 billion (3 billion USD) and hopes to ensure reliable internet services by 2017. The strategy, calls for 5% of the National Budget to be geared to ICTs annually, up from the current 0.5%.

    “The strategy provides a roadmap to transform Kenya into a knowledge-based society driven by reliable high-capacity nationwide broadband network,” reads the blue print in part.

    While the strategy doesn’t specifically mention eHealth or healthcare, ICT investment and infrastructure developments are essential foundation components of eHealth strategy, paving the way for future eHealth initiatives in Kenya. Kenya is one of the first African countries to have a detailed eHealth strategy.  The mission of the 2011-2017 eHealth strategy is to develop efficient, accessible, equitable, secure and consumer friendly healthcare services enabled by ICT. The strategy calls for implementation of telemedicine, health information systems, information for citizens, mHealth and eLearning. The new broadband strategy provides Kenya with the means to implement its eHealth strategy.