Uganda embraces ICTs in healthcare

DEVELOPMENT

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Image: Bob Lyazi, Director, Rural Communications Development Fund, UCC. By ITU/A.Khan
Bob Lyazi, Director, Rural Communications Development Fund, UCC

Uganda has embraced e-health and m-health projects in a bid to achieve the millennium development goals. At a special session at ITU Telecom World 12, a team from Uganda shared lessons learned and made a bid for partners to help them increase the roll out and coordination of such projects.

Clinics in Uganda are using simple SMS-based systems to track medical supplies, help patients remember to take their HIV treatments and to keep in touch with the nursing and medical staff working on the ground, making sure they are informed of the latest procedures.

“We don’t have libraries, or even the infrastructure we have now,” explained Patrick Kibaya, Project Officer with Uganda Chartered HealthNet. “Doctors were fast becoming ‘quack’ doctors as they were very soon away from the latest knowledge and information.”

Speakers, including Eunice Namirembe from Text to Change explained a number of low-technology solutions with high-impact results that managed to produce improved health results for low investment of resources.

Aaron Tushabe is a student and self-described phone technology evangelist. For him what was more exciting about these kinds of developments was that they were based on using innovative thinking to exploit a resource that already existed, namely the mobile phone network.

However, the success of these projects has produced some coordination issues with nurses now being asked to take part in a number of e-health projects that require them to carry a number of mobile phones.

“ICT can become not only a forest, but a huge jungle where the Ministry of Health is faced by so many innovations,” said Uganda’s Minster for Information and Communications Technology Ruhakana Rugunda. “So we need to develop a mechanism for sieving and developing the most critical issues – how do we decide the most critical innovations?”

Sean Blaschke, Coordinator Health Systems Strengthening at UNICEF (Uganda), explained how they are working with the government to ensure that all these projects are integrated and that the government has the relevant policies in place to manage these e-health operators.

On the regulatory side, Bob Lyazi from the Uganda Communications Commission said that universal access was a priority.

“As the regulator, our main objective is to ensure that all these applications can reach by everyone in Uganda,” said Mr Lyazi. “As until they can be used by all, their impact can’t be strongly felt.”



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