TANZANIA has reached another milestone in the transformation of the healthcare system by leveraging information communications technologies (ICTs) with the launch of the national eHealth Strategy.
Speaking at the launch on Monday, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare,Dr Seif Rashid, said his ministry, being the primary government institution for providing health information, raising health awareness and monitoring the quality of health services, had reoriented its policies towards improving operational efficiency.
"Today I am very pleased to be launching the National eHealth Strategy because it spells out the ministry's vision that is to enable a safe, high-quality, equitable,
efficient and sustainable health system for all citizens using ICTs to enhance planning, managing and delivering health services," he explained.
Dr Rashid said during a two-day workshop that will also see the inauguration of the eHealth Steering Committee that the strategy was derived from the Health Sector Strategic Plan III and complements the ministry's five-year strategy for the health sector.
He said implementation of the strategy would bring a number of benefits, including enabling electronic access to appropriate healthcare services for patients in
remote, rural and disadvantaged communities as well as enhancing the ability to recognise and manage potential disease outbreaks as well as improved national coordination on public health issues.
Other benefits include enhancing monitoring, control and use of healthcare resources more efficiently in finance, medicines, human resources through replacing paper-intensive processes and providing information management and enabling the health sector to operate more effectively as a connected system, overcoming
fragmentation and duplication of service delivery.
Dr Rashid said that whilst eHealth had proven potential benefits in many countries, several practical experiences indicated that the obtained benefits could vary greatly, depending on strong leadership and governance mechanism.
"It is due to this reason that eHealth governance is one of the four strategic pillars of this strategy, whose aim is to provide effective leadership and oversight of eHealth Strategy implementation," he said.
He said the ministry would institutionalise a regulatory process including relevant guidelines and promote the use of eHealth services to achieve improved
quality, greater efficiency, deliver better health services and support a more agile
The minister said it was encouraging to note that implementation of the strategy had already started by establishing a National eHealth Steering Committee whose mandate was to direct, monitor and evaluate its implementation in the country as well as influence the ministry.
In order to provide better appreciation of the resource gap and the resources needed to implement the strategy, the ministry had also developed a five-year indicative National Costed eHealth Action Plan with a budget that will act as a resource mobilisation tool.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Donan Mmbando, said prior to the formulation of the strategy, stakeholders from different sectors and ministries were involved, adding that this had brought a sense of ownership, hence to ensure strategy would be effective.
Dr Mmbando said that despite the numerous challenges that faced the health care system, it was imperative that ICTs were integrated, for it was the best and most effective way to develop health care systems.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Director, Dr Rufaro Chatora, said experience had shown that for any eHealth strategy to be effective, there was need to plan at the national level effectively.
Dr Chatora commended the process of involving all stakeholders during the formulation of the strategy, insisting that having a sense of ownership by the stakeholders was one of the initial stages of implementation and pledged future support and cooperation with the ministry.