The technological revolution over the last century has wrought profound change on human life and society. The impact of the digital culture is discernible in diverse facets of human activity. Health care is no exception. Hence the need for a digital culture across our health care spectrum to improve lives.
Globally, traditional health care delivery is being challenged if not reconfigured by the pervasive influence of digital technology on humanity. Consumers now access health information on mobile devices. Doctors use apps to improve diagnosis and management of chronic diseases and even remotely monitor patients.
People are buying wearable devices to monitor their health and to take corrective measures before it’s too late. Hospitals, clinics and other health care providers are now than ever before leveraging social media to strengthen relationships with clients and manage costs and processes.
Electronic records facilitate better information management while curbing fraud – a major challenge facing the medical insurance industry. Ever wondered what hospitals do with all that data they collect from patients?
Adopting modern digital data systems can help harness this rich trove of data into a platform offering personalized health care and improve process efficiency.
Access to medical information helps consumers take charge of their health.
This has significant potential to drive preventive health care, for instance, by getting people to embrace healthy diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes thus averting hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other non-communicable diseases now prevalent in Kenya.
Social media enhances transparency via increased public scrutiny of service providers. It is also a powerful tool for information sharing and dispensing health-related advice.
Digital technology therefore empowers patients to better manage their health and engage with healthcare providers. Almost everyone now has a smartphone so people need not travel long distances to see a doctor. Modern equipment enables early diagnoses of potentially debilitating and fatal ailments. Improved medical techniques and sharing of information and research through digital platforms have vastly improved treatment. Such cross-cutting benefits justify the adoption of the digital health care model especially in the public health system serving the larger Kenyan population. Global trends however reveal that healthcare lags other sectors in digital adoption and readiness.
There are many reasons for this including obvious concerns about the patient’s privacy. Sharing patient information can have serious legal implications for medical practitioners and institutions. Many of our chronically under-funded public health institutions still rely on outdated manual systems.
Low staff morale stifles innovation and is a disincentive for efficient and quality service. There is a lot of work to be done to shift our entire health care system from analogue to digital mode. Acquiring the latest digital technology is however not sufficient to cure this malaise. We need to instill culture change to underpin the desired transformation of our health care system. A holistic approach focusing on the patient is required. Above all, we have to understand how digital technology can positively impact health care services.
In a nutshell, technology must be coupled with innovative practices and processes in order to have the desired positive impact. Despite strides made in reforming our health system, many Kenyan public hospitals remain in dire shape, starved of the requisite infrastructure and human capital.
Digital adoption cannot thrive in such an environment. Nor should it be limited to private health facilities which only the few can access. Lest we forget, the Constitution provides that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health which includes the right to health care services.
Creating a digital health care system is imperative for the realisation of this aspiration thus improving the lives of all Kenyans.
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