9 January 2017

Africa: Why Tanzania Needs to Focus On E-Health This 2017

Photo: ©Zipline International
A drone transporting medical supplies (file photo).

This year 2017, as a nation, we ought to adjust more efforts in the adopting and using e-health so that our country advances steps closer to attaining the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

For instance, an effective tele-health improves healthcare access at lower cost.

The healthcare industry is among the sectors that are enjoying the fruits of technology. The world is now endeavouring to achieve the goal of UHC, where every individual will have access to the healthcare services without financial risk.

The good news is that technology use in health has provided a platform that is proving beyond doubt that this goal can successfully be achieved.

Adoption of e-health in healthcare systems all over the globe has brought some hopes amongst healthcare stakeholders as far as achievement of UHC goal is concerned.

E-health is the use of information communication technologies (ICT) in health and health-related areas at large. E-health is indeed very wide and it incomporates fields like m-health, tele-health, e-health records, social media and e-learning.

Tanzania has already established her own strategy so far and in the health sector strategic plan - IV(HSSP-IV), e-health is clearly elaborated.

Recent survey conducted by the World Health Organisation on e-health adoption rate has revealed that it is very possible to attain the Universal health goal if e-health component is effectively absorbed in a national health system.

Adoptability rate of these e-health components differ very much from one another. M-health is one of the highly adopted e-health type in developing nations compared to the rest, and this is explained by tremendous growth of mobile technology amongst us.


This is one of the important aspects of e-health which indeed has the potential of changing the dynamics of our health system. In brief, m-health refers to the use of mobile devices like mobile phones, wireless accessory and monitoring devices, for medical and public health benefits. M-health in Tanzania is already operational all over the country.

There are a lot of m-health operational programs in Tanzania to-date. These do serve both urban and rural areas. These m-health programs fall under either of the following; health call centres, community mobilisation/health, reminder of appointments, mobile telehealth, health surveys, patient monitoring, electronic patient information, m-learning and promotion campaigns.

Not all m-health programmes are under government, some are operated privately. Though there is an argument that the impact of m-health is not an immediate one but the role m-health plays towards universal health coverage can never be underestimated.

As long as the number of mobile phone users goes on raising, m-health gives a rare opportunity to be utilised maximally in this year 2017 towards attaining UHC goal.


There is also a good number of operational tele-health programmes in Tanzania. Tele-health is based on the use of ICT to enable interaction between a health care provider and a distant patient; and this may happen on real-time or that interaction may take place in real time basis or store-and-forward basis. For example, tele-radiology, tele-pathology and so forth .

However, these tele-health programmes are subjected to various challenges so far and it is advised that they must be regularly evaluated; extra attention is to be paid to government-sponsored programs.

Electronic health records

These are patient centred records which provide on-time and secure information only to warranted users. A significant number of health facilities so far in Tanzania have adopted electronic medical record system. In this year, 2017, a number of healthcare facilities employing electronic medical record system ought to be increased significantly.

This is the time to begin the initiatives towards establishment of national electronic health record system. Its establishment shall lead to an integrated system of patient management nation-wide.

Social media

Social media is a very crucial means of relaying messages for healthcare facilities and also of receiving and sharing health information amongst individuals.

I wish to say a lot with regards to social media but I better put it this way; watch out when you are using social media this year following enactment of the social media law and be extra cautious to the health information you get from social media.

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