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ELECTION 2022

Digital Healthcare is a source of employment for the youth

OPINION
By Kilemi Thambura | May 8th 2022 | 4 min read

According to a Kenya Bureau of Statistics report as of September 2020, Kenya’s unemployment rate stood at 65 percent. 

In addition, 62 per cent of youth aged from 15 to 34 years have below secondary level education, 34 per cent have secondary education, and only one per cent have a university education.  

The consequences of unemployment can be more severe for youth than adults. Extended periods of unemployment experienced while young can lead to lower lifetime earnings while a delayed first job can negatively impact future earning capabilities. 

Moreover, extended durations of unemployment limit young people’s capacity to develop technical and professional skills, creating barriers to future employability. Further, the frustrations of unemployment can increase social vices such as crime.

The digital space provides opportunities for growth for employment since many young people have digital skills.

Digital healthcare is one of the sectors that presents many opportunities for the youth to work at affordable wages. Adoption of technology in the healthcare industry aids in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness that comes with the automation of processes. 

Health systems such as the Health Management Information System (HMIS) are used in recording, storing, and retrieving patients’ records. The Laboratory Management Information System (LMIS), is useful in the automation of laboratory workflows, integration of instruments, management of samples, and associated information. 

According to the Gartner report of 2020, Western Health, serving a population of approximately a million people across one of the fastest-growing areas in Victoria, Australia, has employed over 6,500 people. The company implemented an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system in 2018 and made a significant impact attributed to the adoption of the system from the captured information. 

A remarkable impact was the achievement of a higher level of internal efficiency, more patient security, patient safety, and excellence in overall patient care. A typical healthcare professional (a doctor, a nurse, a laboratory technologist, etc.) is usually very busy considering the healthcare services demand in the system. 

There are also not enough healthcare professionals to match the demand for healthcare services in Kenya. According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya has 63,000 health personnel. Of these, 21,000 are nurses, 3,200 clinical officers, 2,285 doctors, and 1,100 pharmacists in a population of over fifty million people. 

The remaining 35,000 are public health technicians, technologists, physiotherapists, and records assistants, among others. The country has one doctor for 7,200 people, one clinical officer for 21,000, and one nurse for every 1,600. 

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 23 health professionals for every 10,000. To meet this ratio, Kenya needs over 0.1 million workers. We are not anywhere close to the benchmark.

For healthcare technology to be effective, there has to be a systematic entry of information required by the systems. 

The time spent updating information takes away the attention from healthcare-related problems. The result is ineffective and incomplete information entry that may result in inaccuracies.

Information entry does indeed consume a fair amount of time compared to clinical processes but the benefits that come from electronic records are enormous in improving the care for the patients.  

This offers an opportunity for low-wage individuals to be introduced into the system to support the information entry functions. Information entry work does not require sophisticated skills. In the least, even a properly trained primary school graduate can do information entry. 

Such jobs can be great opportunities for the youths to have direct exposure to a supportive environment while providing them a chance to create networks crucial for their professional growth. 

In our experience during the rollout of Damu Sasa in 170 facilities across the country, we found out that information entry is a big challenge in the healthcare space. 

 

However, we solved this by embedding an information entry clerk to support the busy healthcare professionals thus enabling the latter to focus on other important matters such as attending to the patients.  

The information clerks played two key roles: One, they helped ensure the completion of information entry on healthcare activities. Second, they handheld the clients through the technology adoption and transition duration. 

This led to better outcomes in technology acceptance compared to where such information entry support was missing, in addition to accurate reliable information.

The information entry opportunities, as firsthand jobs, helped enhance the exposure of the clerks to the healthcare systems, which enabled them even propose process improvements towards further use of the technology. 

Aside from improving healthcare delivery, there are a lot of other benefits from accurate information in the systems. Analysis of this information can provide insights like trends, resource use, and information supportive of evidence-based decision-making. Such use of information, we believe, can lead to improved healthcare delivery. 

According to the Standard Group article of 14th March 2022, the state has plans to establish a digitisation center and platforms that will process and automate 500 million records annually or five billion by the vision year 2030 under a 10-year National Digital Masterplan (2020-2030). 

 This will offer great opportunities for the information entry jobs for the unemployed youths, data-driven decision-making, and boost the potential to keep enhancing service delivery through digitization.

 The Kenyan population continues to grow by 2.24 per cent, leading to an increment in the demand for healthcare services. This calls for as much efficiency and effectiveness necessary to meet these demands, something achievable through effective use of technology.

To ensure the sustenance of quality of service with the changes, the capture of data remains paramount to aid in informed hence better care for the patients. One of the key determinants of quality healthcare in any state or nation is how efficiently the data is managed.

The government and the stakeholders have a responsibility to deliver quality healthcare to meet the ever-growing demand for healthcare.  

The use of technology can be helpful in support of these objectives. This can be aided with the use of low-skill, low entry information entry personnel to enable effective information capture and use while aiding the adoption of information technology in the facilities.

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