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Digital technologies expand space for private sector in healthcare

The private sector commands approximately 45% of all goods, services, products and technologies in Kenya’s health sector. This is according to the Public Private Collaboration Strategy developed by the Ministry of Health. Recent legal and regulatory reform initiatives in Kenya, coupled with the move towards sustainable health systems, presents various opportunities for increased participation of the private sector in Kenya’s healthcare.

One such opportunity for public-private collaboration lies in digital ecosystems, which are set to play a critical role in the future of healthcare. The Digital Health Bill that is currently before Parliament is therefore quite timely. If the Bill becomes law, it will provide a framework for digital health services, including establishment of a comprehensive, integrated digital health information system and protection of personal health information.  Private sector engagement in the development and/or management of the integrated digital health information system would enable health workers to focus on their core mandate of providing care, while leveraging on private sector efficiencies and innovation on issues to do with the digital health information system.

Kenya’s skyrocketing mobile penetration also puts the country at a vantage point for innovation and growth in digital health, particularly through mobile technologies. The Communications Authority of Kenya recently reported that mobile penetration in Kenya surpasses the country’s population by approximately 12%.  While it is hoped that digital health technologies shall follow the route that the burgeoning fintech innovations have followed, issues to do with data protection and e-waste management will need to be carefully navigated, given the sensitive nature of health data. In addition, the Government will need to invest in infrastructure required to support digital health. The ongoing automation of core public services (including with respect to health services) is therefore welcome. Installation of high-speed fibre-optic infrastructure in health facilities has also been included as one of the flagship programmes in the country’s National Digital Masterplan. This will go a long way in supporting digital health.

The article was featured in the Business Daily and can be accessed here.