Health Innovations Lab in Offing, Says Ministry

The government is considering setting up an innovations laboratory to help integrate communications technology into health systems, an official has said.

Dr Eddie Mukoyo, the assistant commissioner for Resources in the ministry of Health (MOH), says the government would involve academics in using ICTs to find solutions to problems affecting the health sector.

“Any new tools must add value to those already- in the ecosystem, and complement, integrate and share data with the already existing systems that the MOH is supporting,” said Mukoyo, who was a guest at the Mobile Monday Kampala (MoMoKla) in Kampala last week.

MoMoKla is held every first Monday of the month, bringing together mobile application innovators and developers to network, share ideas, best practices and trends from global markets.

The theme for this month’s event, hosted by ThoughtWorks, a global custom software company, was: “How can mobile health tools help contain an outbreak?”

High costs:

Mukoyo also revealed that MOH was in the process of developing policy frameworks for a patients’ data system. He said the policies were intended to ensure confidentiality once the system had been rolled out. However, a senior health IT specialist, Ismail Wadembere, told participants at the Mobile Monday event that while some health applications are currently in use in Uganda, ordinary Ugandans are not using them because of the high costs involved.

Pointing to the Integrated Human Resource Information System (iHRIS), an SMS application one can use to find out whether a health practitioner is registered, Wadembere said many people were unable to pay Shs 250 for a single message.

“It’s a bit costly to the common man they can’t afford the applications,” said Wadembere, a human resource systems manager at Intrahealth, an international organisation that aims at improving health worker performance.

Wadembere said they had embarked on efforts to engage private companies such as telecommunications firms to help subsidise the use of mobile health tools as a form of corporate social responsibility. He also said that a lot of publicity needed to be carried out to sensitise the public on the usage of health applications.

Nimrod, a software developer at Thought Works Uganda, urged innovators to involve members of the public when developing applications.

“Do not think for the user,” he said. “Involve them so they can express their needs in the process.”

Source : The Observer

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