Electronic Media for District Health Managers (4)
This is indeed a very interesting subject. I feel the way forward for all
district level health operations in Africa is to use the modern IT tools in
the delivery of services. Our experience as SatelLife (HealthNet) in Africa
reveals that the potential for a mere e-mail connectivity is enormous.
Several district health facilities can improve on efficiency just by a
reliable e-mail connectivity. One such area is the strengthening of Health
I will present a brief experience in Kenya.
HealthNet Kenya serves over 1500 health workers in all the provinces of the
country. The Ministry of Health, has been the slowest in utilising this
technology due to lack of the necessary hardware. However, a number of
groups like Kenya Medical Research Institute, National TB/Leprosy control
programme and the Kenya-Belgium STD/HIV programme have successfully created
viable electronic networks at district level rural sites. All these sites
communicate by dialling the server located in Nairobi. Experience from
these sites show that:-
- the morale of workers in the remote sites is boosted as soon as the
isolation is broken;
- laptop computers do better in rural setting. They are easy to transport,
protect against dust and heat (but of course easy to be stolen!);
- external fax modems do better in remote sites ( no scientific explanation!).
The major obstacles include:-
- high costs of local telephone calls;
- poor quality telephone lines;
- high costs of IT hardware locally;
- low computer literacy among health professionals;
- lack of enough computer experts to support rural sites;
- lack of a clear IT policy within civil service and health sector.
Otherwise the health workers on these ?micronets? use the system to access
useful info (HealthNet News, ProMED etc); communicate data to head offices;
coordinate programmes; communicate with colleagues; seek assistance from
medical librarians among many others. It is my hope that with the rapid
computerisation programme in the Kenyan MoH, HealthNet will assist in
creating a network for the district hospitals.
Dr. Fred Bukachi, MD
SatelLife Regional Director for Africa
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