by Wallace Mawire
ln a bid to move with global developments Zimbabwe has developed ehealth strategies to enhance service delivery and increase competitiveness in the health sector.
Globally all sectors are embracing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Health care is no exception.ICTs can transform how health care is delivered and how health systems are run.
The use of ICTs in health care service delivery is termed ehealth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ehealth as the combined use of electronic communication and information technology in the health sector.
“E-health is the means of ensuring that the right health information is provided to the right person at the right place and time in a secure,electronic form for the purpose of optimizing the quality and efficiency of health care delivery,” according to WHO.
ICTs in health care include; at the point of care,resource wastage can be avoided if electronic medical record systems are used to order investigations and reported immediately to the care provider.
Services can be provided at the least cost were telehealth services are provided to provide specialist services remotely to communities who are unable to travel to get these services and electronic surveillance systems can provide decision makers with the power to decide on the most appropriate interventions, a service relevant to the target population.
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) by December 2011, Zimbabwe had about 1,4 million (12% of the population) accessing the internet.
The mobile phone communications rate was estimated at 78,5% by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) by March 2012.
According to Chipo Mutambo of the ICT/ehealth working group technical committee of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe a number of ehealth applications are underway in Zimbabwe.
These include strengthening of the national health information system through the use of the District Health Information System (DHIS).
Human resources for health are being tracked through an integrated database system that includes relevant regulatory authorities and the ministry of health.
A number of private sector initiatives are beginning to take hold with one service provider linking all care centers in a single network.
The medical school has installed a telemedicine application through which teaching and training can be provided to undergraduate medical practitioners.
The medical school has access to key international data repositories currently accessible to postgraduate and undergraduate health care practitioners.
lt is reported that there are no clear well-coordinated mechanisms in place were ehealth implementations are organised.
This is reported to produce serious duplication of effort and unworkable system implementations The strategy will guide the health ministry to implement ehealth interventions.