Local representatives from three leading Health Information System (HIS) vendors have called on the National Department of Health (NDoH) to involve the private sector in eHealth preparation of National Health Insurance (NHI).

This was stated during the Round Table dedicated to eHealth on the second day of the eStrategies Africa forum.

The table was Chaired by Professor Darelle Van Greunen from the Centre for Community Technologies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and included panellists from the public sector – the CSIR; the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS); MRC-PATH Global Health Innovation Accelerator; and the Northern Cape Provincial Broadband Steering Committee, as well as representatives from InterSystems, Health System Technologies (HST) and Agfa from the private sector.

One of the topics brought to the Round Table was the need to establish an engagement model through which private companies with a proven track record in the provision of  eHealth systems locally or internationally can engage with the NDoH and provincial DoHs to assist with moving eHealth initiatives forward on a national scale.

“There is a need for the centralisation of clinical data so that patient information is accessible by health practitioners throughout the clinical pathway to ensure patient safety and improved clinical monitoring and evaluation,” said Country Manager of InterSystems South Africa, Henry Adams.

“The private sector is well positioned to offer the  input about how national eHealth networks can function and what needs to be in place to achieve this.  One option would be for government to establish think-tank forums. The earlier we are involved in the process the more help we can give to make the eHealth programmes successful,” continued Adams.

“The insight we get from our global experience is that the sustainable success of national eHealth programme depends on working together. It’s not about application functionality and price, it’s all about programme outcomes and value,” concluded Adams.

As an example of how public-private partnerships (PPPs) can work for improved patient care, Executive Director at HST, Gerrit Henning, explained how HST has been working with the Western Cape provincial government to deploy an eHealth patient register that is being used to track patients’ care and improve decision support.

“Systems that collect pockets of data in silos are not effective and don’t empower the patient; data has to be shared. Since 1999 we’ve been collaborating with Cape Health Systems to ensure that all 12 million patients who were registered in the old system over the last 30 years are integrated into one electronic database,” said Henning.

“This full spectrum of patient data includes demographic information and allows doctors to follow the patient’s progress along a timeline,” continued Henning.

Echoing the need for shared health data, Business Unit Manager IT at Agfa, John Watson, also highlighted the importance of using technology to engage the patient and the underlying need for connectivity to “move the data between healthcare facilities instead of having to move the patient.”

Other action items brought to the table included the need for SITA to act as a procurement vehicle and  establish a communication platform so that stakeholders can be informed about activities at the NDoH; and for the Health Normative Standards Framework (HNSF) to be updated to include interoperability standards for all mobile devices, apps, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) that generate patient-centric data.

Deputy Minister of the DTPS, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, closed the session by stating that the eHealth Strategy document is currently under review and an updated version is expected to be finalised within the next six to 12 months.

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