NAIROBI— Poland and Kenya have embarked on a major collaboration that will see the two countries immensely benefit from ICT-aided health and medical innovative solutions commonly known as e-health, through investments in infrastructure and explore on medical tourism.
In an extensive engagement summit held at the Windsor hotel in Nairobi during the 1stKenya-Poland e-Health Summit last month, the two countries shared experiences with the use of different innovations, explored areas of collaboration and laid out opportunities that exist for trade and investment in the health sector.
The summit, which was organized by the Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH) Nairobi office and eMedica was attended by Kenya’s ministry of Health officials, County Executive Committees members and representatives from 16 counties.
The forum also attracted representatives from private sector drawn from both local and international hospitals as well as service providers in the area of ICT.
Key areas of collaboration agreed included telemedicine, e-prescription and remote diagnosis as well as financing for the acquisition of modern equipment to support e-health.
Other areas that this partnership is exploring is looking at Poland as a reliable alternative for Kenyans seeking specialized care abroad as a form of medical tourism and equally providing exchange programs between Kenyan and Polish doctors on best practices of e-health.
With Kenya being a leader in mobile telephone use in East Africa, the summit explored how they can leverage on this to develop solutions that address major challenges affecting delivery of quality and affordable healthcare in the country.
According to Mr Onesmus Kamau, the head of e-Health Development Unit at the Kenya’s Ministry of health, the environment for the takeoff of e-health is right.
“Kenya has a mobile phone penetration of over 90 per cent and a penetration of over 60 per cent of smartphones. The country also has the available infrastructure including reliable fiber optic that connects almost all the county referral hospitals and an educated population that is important for fully utilization of the technology,” Kamau noted.
According to Kamau, there have also been major initiatives to promote the use of ICT in health services provision based on plot projects, as well as established data collection and reporting systems being employed by government and hospitals.
These he said include the District Health System (DHS2) that corrects and analyses all patients’ data in each county as well as various electronic claims systems by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Participants also observed that adequate deployment of e-health solutions would not only lower the cost of diagnosis but also bridge the gap that exists on the number of specialized doctors available per patient.
However, the use of e-health was mooted to be an aid to health workers rather than completely substituting them altogether.
According to Dr Amit Thakkar, the chairman of Kenya Healthcare Federation, the heath sector in Kenya needs to explore all the pillars of healthcare provision which include trained workforce, modern health facilities and equipment, harmonized policies and regulations along with a drive to have universal health coverage.
“Universal Health Coverage is only a small aspect of quality healthcare. We are looking at expanding health financing schemes, expanding infrastructure, specialized health workers and looking at digitization of health. These are massive steps that need to be achieved for Kenya to move towards UHC,” he noted.
Dr. Thakkar however urged Polish investors to explore investing in tele-diagnosis which is likely to be the tipping off of the technology.
He said although most efforts in the past have been put on tele-consulting and telemedicine, the real game changer will eventually come on technologies that will empower hospitals and patients with correct diagnosis on time.
The president of the Polish Hospital Federation Prof Jaroslaw Federowski noted that Poland was exploring on investing both as start-ups not counting established entities on best practices on e-health, based on experiences that the country learnt while rolling out a digitization of health in their country.
Prof Federowski noted that some of the areas the country was exploring include luring Kenyans seeking specialized medical attention as a form of medical tourism to his country.
“Poland provides a competitive alternative to other countries for bilateral medical collaboration. We have good hospitals with modern equipment, competent staff plus a clear follow-up schedule for patients seeking specialized treatment abroad, all at very competitive prices,” he said.
In Poland, 40 per cent of hospitals have an IT solution that allows keeping of medical records in an electronic format while 24 per cent of the hospitals use telemedicine solutions in the field of activity which is paid through health insurance.
Poland has one of the most rapidly expanding hospital networks in Europe which has been attributed to adoption of ICT aided health services provision.
According to Michael Mazurewicz, the Nairobi bureau chief of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, his organization is working with different players from both Kenya and Poland, to develop modules that will roll-out effective e-health solutions that will reduce the cost of diagnosis in the shortest time possible.
Some of the Polish companies represented included Asseco- a leading data company, Famed, Cornmay, Orphee, Medapp and Polish Hospital Federation as part of European Hospital and Healthcare Federation.
All the companies agreed to explore ways of working with county governments to develop e-health solutions.