Ethiopia's Effort in Ensuring Digital Health System

The digital world is drastically shaping how we communicate and manage our personal, communities and institutional affairs; and even national agendas in more different way than before.

No need to say that this century is engulfed and fallen under the hand of technology making the world businesses and services more efficient, simple and reliable, and turning the world a better place even though there are disparities for various reasons.

The advancement of information communication technology is growing among many sectors, reaping the benefits that the digital technology service has presented. In the same manner, apart from other services, the technology is growing remarkably and benefitting Ethiopia's health sector through building a system that is necessary to handle and manage documents and information for immediate use in the health institutions both public and the private one.

In fact, as it is observed, the level of effort to join and benefit from the digital world varies as per institutions' level of economic and human development. Whatever the reason, however, it is high time for any nation to join the digital world to transform the services delivery, increase efficacy, provide reliable, advanced as well customers oriented services that increase satisfaction and building trust.

It has to be recalled that Ministry of Health (MoH) launched the Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center (DHILC), the first of its kind, as part of ensure digital health in the health system last year August on 6, 2020.

According to Ministry of Health, the digital database solves the hassle of searching for hardcopy cards of patients in health institutions and the new digital health database is instrumental in making patients' information reliable and easily accessible.

Currently over 60 percent of the health institutions across the nation are using the new digital health database. To increase the coverage nationwide and digitalize all medical records in health centers, currently activities are underway to bolstering the capacity of health workers with the new system.

Creating modern and accessible information for all cases is under consideration. The Federal Ministry of Health along with Ethio-Telecom are working together to interconnect health centers across the country through the internet.

Dr. Solomon Zewdu, Deputy Director Africa - Health and Nutrition at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is extremely pleased to have contributed to the realization of Ethiopia's Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center.

It is our belief that this center plays a crucial role in transforming health information systems and the culture of data-driven decision making in Ethiopia's health sector. We also believe that it will serve as an incubation center with the potential to provide technical support for other Sub-Saharan African countries to build and implement sustainable digital health solutions in the spirit of South-to-South collaboration."

This piece writer, approached health professionals as well resident who had firsthand experiences at health facilities in recent days. One who wants to remain anonymous said that "I had been at public health facility looking for medication recently, the queue was too long and the registration was so hectic. Many were disappointed of the services.

Had the services been supported by digital health, there would not be bustle and hassle. In my view, the effort is not yet translated to practice and may be it is due to the high number of customers and shortage of skilled human power at public health facility."

He further noted that, private health facilities are doing in better way than the publics are doing, and he called on stakeholders to enhance efforts in translating the digital health service because it could support the use of digital technology to improve health service delivery.

Alemu Yimer, Pharmacist at Sirti Heath Center in Akaki Kality Sub City for his part noted that, putting digital health in the health system is fundamental and the efforts are ongoing with promising outcomes though it lacks uniformity in its applicability among health facilities. As to him, some districts in Addis Ababa are committed to apply the technology; but others are not yet ready to it.

Putting digital health practice in a nation health system is an inexorable phenomenon as it is vital to handle and keep patients' medical data accordingly, reduce routine works and increase customers' satisfaction and to assist professionals as well trace any kind of case surfaced accordingly plus conduct for further study at health centers and hospitals both in the urban and hinterlands.

"We trained to resume the services at all department and we are happy for the efforts made to digitize the health sector, hope will commence soon", he noted.

Nation's effort to build digital economy could one fertile ground to boost the digital health effort across the sector in all parts of the country and all documents will be interconnected to the right data base to help all stakeholders.

The Ministry should let the effort remain in vain, because it is one of the responsibilities it should discharge; and the return is huge in terms of transforming the health sector into more productive approach.

Both respondents noted that stakeholders should back the government in framing policy documents and supplying inputs because it could increase costumers' satisfaction and creates job opportunities for citizens.

According to the Ministry, DHILC, one of the advanced approaches, is believed to be a place where health professionals can design and validate digital health tools, synthesize and promote best practices, and scale-up innovations.

The DHILC was built by the MoH in collaboration with Saint Peter's Specialized Hospital and JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. through the Ethiopia Data Use Partnership (DUP), with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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