The WHO has released a comprehensive document which provides a snapshot of each country’s eHealth landscape and how it’s supporting universal health coverage.

The information contained in the Atlas of eHealth Country Profiles is based on the findings of the third global survey on eHealth 2015, which was conducted by the WHO Global Observatory for eHealth (GOe) between April and August 2015.

Over 600 eHealth experts in the 125 WHO Member States, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, contributed to the survey, making it the most current information on the use of eHealth in these countries.

The survey responses were based on self-reporting by a selected group of eHealth experts for each participating country.

Eight eHealth themes were covered in the survey to provide an overview of an individual country’s eHealth landscape: eHealth foundations; legal frameworks for eHealth; telehealth; electronic health records (EHRs); use of eLearning in health sciences; mHealth; social media; and big data.

South Africa’s eHealth country profile spans over three pages, 321-323, and begins with a summary of the country’s context indicators. This includes life expectancy, physician, nurse and hospital bed density, as well as more eHealth related indices such as ICT Development Index rank – of which SA is 84, mobile-cellular users and internet users.

While’s SA’s eHealth country profile reflects that the NDoH has developed an eHealth strategy and a plan for national universal healthcare coverage, in the form of National Health Insurance (NHI), the survey confirms that SA has no national telehealth policy or strategy and fails to factor in multilingualism in its eHealth vision going forward.

The survey’s findings reveal that SA’s legal framework for eHealth is largely lacking, with ‘No’ being the overall response to questions ranging from “Governs the sharing of digital data between health professionals in other health services in the same country through the use of an EHR” to “Allows individuals to demand the deletion of health-related data from their EHR.” Hopefully the NDoH will focus on these issues when updating the eHealth strategy going forward.

For the EHR, telehealth and eLearning categories neither a ‘Yes’ nor a ‘No’ was indicated, demonstrating that no national plans or action have been initiated as of yet. Meanwhile, the mHealth category shows that numerous regional and national programmes and pilots are underway, ranging from treatment adherence to patient monitoring.

SA’s response to the last two themes, social media and the use of big data, also had a significant negative response. This demonstrates that the county still isn’t fully utilising the age of social media to engage with the population, and isn’t governing the use of big data in the private or public sector to improve health outcomes.

To see how SA compares to other countries, you can download the WHO Atlas of eHealth Country Profiles here.

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