- Digital health innovations that are currently being put into practice have brought clients closer to healthcare providers.
- There is need for political support, legal frameworks to ensure credibility and guide the use of technologies and data.
We cannot dispute how convenient and easy digital technologies have made our lives. It almost feels like everything is accessible and within reach. People now shop, attend school, read, work, do interviews, get the news and even entertainment online. This just proves how great an innovation technology is.
When we narrow down to digital health technologies, these are innovations that enhance access to and provision of information and services, and further a point of referral for clients to health facilities. They can be in form of chatbots, websites, hotlines, applications and even social media platforms. Having such innovations not only makes health information and services readily accessible to clients but also acts as a great opportunity to breach the gaps we have in our health systems.
According to WHO, half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services. In addition, more than 900 million people spend at least 10 per cent of their household’s budget on healthcare and end up falling into extreme poverty each year due to health expenses.
In Kenya for instance, seven girls die every day because of unsafe abortions (KDHIS, 2014), which is greatly contributed to by the inability to access sexual reproductive health services and information, which can be curbed by these upcoming innovative technologies.
Digital health technologies can address these gaps by expanding health coverage, which means offering information and services to a wider reach despite the client’s proximity to a health facility. The health systems can then be able to refer clients to the closest facility with services that they need depending on their location.
This can in turn reduce the cost of care as clients are able to go directly to where they can be assisted and also channel the transport costs to buying the medicine prescribed by a health practitioner online.
Additionally, it can enhance privacy, reduce inequality and stigma that clients face, especially when seeking services and information regarding their sexual reproductive health. Follow-ups, patients' record keeping and prescription deliveries can all become a less hectic process with support from digital innovations. Most importantly, this can promote self-care through clients having knowledge about their health and encouraging them to have health-seeking behaviours for better health outcomes.
Digital health innovations that are currently being put into practice have brought clients closer to healthcare providers. Although for this practice to be successful as a self-care intervention to address gaps in the health system, it will be dependent on the right technology and effective governance. There is need for political support, legal frameworks to ensure credibility and guide the use of technologies and data.
Furthermore, adequate funding, management systems, capacity building of health practitioners for them to adopt the use of digital tools and mechanisms for accountability are much needed.
It is therefore important to work together in partnerships to promote the digital health transformation agenda to enhance the practicability of these interventions towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.
Advocacy officer at Reproductive Health Network Kenya