The Western Cape Department of Health (WC DoH) recently released Healthcare 2030: Road to Wellness outlining plans to develop the province’s healthcare system and the role of ICT in that development.

At the launch of the strategy, WC Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, noted that the document sets out the vision, values and principles that will guide the Department over the next 16 years. The document presents a strategic framework for the Department together with a set of planning parameters and tools that can be incrementally applied.

The strategy is primarily based on the Comprehensive Service Plan (CSP) released in 2007. According to Head of the WC DoH, Prof Craig Househam, the provincial DoH will “build on the strong foundation, direction and many other achievements of the CSP and learn from the lessons in its planning and implementation towards 2030.”

The strategy describes the importance of ICT in achieving the vision and objectives of 2030 as the ability to integrate data from various systems and provide meaningful information for better management. The strategy also predicts that integrated information at a clinical level will enable continuity of care and improve clinical management, both of which contribute to the overall objective of the strategy: improving the patient experience.

Specific ICT related topics covered in the document include Business Intelligence, policy and planning, mHealth, implementation and support, and monitoring and evaluation. Opportunities in ICT are also discussed, such as the drive to become more citizen-centric by harnessing mobile platforms for direct patient interaction. Opportunities in home and community-based care and health facilities are also given special attention, ranging from remote access to EHRs, to efficient communication between healthcare workers and streamlining the referral and discharge process.

The province already has some of the most advanced core systems in the country, which have been acknowledged at a national level by eHealth Strategy South Africa 2012-2016: a central hospital information system with a unique patient ID, a medicines management system, digital radiology and community healthcare clinics that access the same provincial patient demographic data. The Department’s intent now is to evolve the entire system even further to meet the objectives set out in the strategy.

Continuity of care is a central theme of the strategy, the importance of which is demonstrated by the Department’s electronic Continuity of Care Record (eCCR) pilot. The eCCR was designed with the clinician in mind, allowing the easy creation of records using an EHR software program.  Essentially, the eCCR is a summary of a patient’s health data that allows clinicians to share important clinical information about a patient.

Responding to queries from eHealthNews, Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, stated: “We see increasing automation as an important enabler to improving efficiency and quality of health data. eHealth has enormous potential and exciting opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the health system and in improving health outcomes.  It should be seen as an enabler towards the 2030 vision.  Priority setting remains an important challenge within a resource constraint environment.  It must be seen as a triad of people, systems and technology.”

The WC DoH has already started expanding services by issuing tenders for systems such as hospital robotic dispensing systems and the pharmacovigilance monitoring programme. The DoH also stated its intent to do a feasibility study on hospital e-prescribing and administration of medicines, as well as expressing a willingness to support and adopt the National Department of Health’s (NDoH) framework for interoperability to develop a health business intelligence system for the province.

The strategy represents the third wave of health reform in the WC after the Health Plan of 1995 and Healthcare 2010. The plan’s objectives are also in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the 2030 National Development Plan (NDP) and the provincial strategic objective to improve wellness.

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