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With the right approach, Kenya’s healthcare sector can leverage the full power of tech

Christopher Saul

By Christopher Saul, Territory Sales Lead for East Africa at Red Hat

Kenya’s healthcare sector is the scene of innovative and promising change. The country is on a mission to revitalise and upgrade its healthcare capabilities and service offering, an effort led by President Ruto, who has advocated several healthcare reforms. These include reforming the National Health Insurance Fund to become a social health insurance provider, improving medical supply procurements, and deploying an integrated health information system.

Technology and IT can play a key role in improving Kenya’s healthcare sector and enable it to provide quality, reliable service to the nation’s citizens. By investing in the right solutions and architecture, organisations can unlock new functions and methods of working, digitise existing ones, and ensure interoperability and efficiency across technology ecosystems.

Ongoing challenges

Though Kenya ranks highly in Africa in its readiness to provide quality medical services, the sector faces significant hurdles, such as low recruitment numbers and limited coverage. The provision of health services is also hampered by poor availability and quality of infrastructure, which demand that service providers explore other means of getting that service to the people who need it most. 

And, while there is a drive to deploy new technologies to reform healthcare, that drive is not without constraints. For example, public hospitals in Kenya are increasingly purchasing digital health systems to support administrative functions, replacing paper-based systems as part of a trend initially exhibited by high-income countries. However, a significant amount of work is needed to ensure the interoperability of those systems within facilities and with other government services. Interoperability, along with system performance and reliability, are cornerstones that must be ensured if the sector is to become a guiding example for the rest of the continent. 

The promise of technology

Digital health – the application of ICT to provide healthcare interventions and improve the quality of service – isn’t a new trend by any means. But it is establishing a foothold across Africa, spurred on by digital transformation and the construction of critical infrastructure. 

According to an analysis by McKinsey to determine the financial impact of digital health tools in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, it was found the three countries could capture efficiencies of up to 15% in total healthcare expenditures by 2030. Furthermore, the widespread adoption of digital health tools in Kenya could unlock up to $2.5 billion, 14% of the country’s total projected spending on healthcare.

Notably, Kenya is also home to an inspiring healthtech sector, with many start-ups working to innovate and transform the various components of healthcare service delivery. These include communication platforms that connect patients with hospitals and healthcare professionals, end-to-end information services, and medication sales and distribution. Such innovation would not be possible without flexible and trusted infrastructure that enables organisations to build their products, ensure data compliance and interoperability, and can grow and scale as they do. 

The ingredients of tech-enabled healthcare

As more healthcare organisations use data to increase their efficiency and improve their service delivery, they require flexible infrastructure that offers real-time insights and functionality where it matters most, i.e. the patients and those at the point of care. To do that, they need to deploy the right IT solutions.

This process begins with a simplification. By running cloud-native applications on hybrid cloud infrastructure, and utilising containers and IT automation, organisations become more agile. They can access new data and insights and apply them where they have maximum impact.

Organisations need to move past the traditional, transactional usage of their data. To do that, they need to ensure connectivity and compatibility among different information systems. This is made possible by open source platforms that remove data silos while processing large volumes across multiple devices and destinations. An open source approach also prevents vendor lock-in, giving organisations freedom of choice for future deployments.

Healthcare organisations are also the keepers of sensitive data. Therefore, security and compliance are essential. Automated security and protection solutions can secure cloud environments throughout application life cycles. At the same time, it can reduce downtime and effort needed to perform routine tasks.

All this doesn’t have to come at great expense for organisations, nor require them to have the in-house technical capabilities they may initially need. By working closely with their technology vendors and utilising the available infrastructure, Kenya’s healthcare organisations can leverage industry-leading IT solutions that demonstrate their commitment to care.

Also Read: Transforming education for Kenya’s digital-first future, one subject at a time

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