3 Ways a Data-Driven, Digital Approach Can Improve Kenya’s Healthcare
The Helium Team
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some of the gaps within the health sector in Kenya and the need for data and data management in the sector has become more evident. A well-functioning health system should utilize data at all levels, from healthcare institutions, caregivers, insurance establishments, pharmaceuticals, to decision-makers at the national and county level, for it to make evidence-based and needed adjustments to realise a seamless system working to achieve the goals of quality care i.e., affordable, and accessible healthcare for all, and improved outcomes.
In Kenya, international health bodies, the Ministry of Health, member-based organisations such as the Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF), the public and private health sector, and other healthcare bodies now use digital systems or partial digital systems, but this data still needs to be analysed effectively and understood for users to draw actionable conclusions from it.
It is critical for the sector to embrace data for 3 reasons:
1. To help doctors make informed decisions to improve the quality of care
Systems that record and analyse the data allow healthcare personnel to access complete medical history at a glance to provide more efficient care to patients. An EMR System, which is a digitized version of paper records in hospitals and clinics, makes it easier to access a patient’s file or to share information between different specialist departments or hospitals. With a few keystrokes, an authorised nurse or doctor can pull out a patient’s record going back years at a time and a good EMR organizes that data so that all the vital information, which includes demographics, medical history, allergies, laboratory test results etc. can be picked up in seconds.
2. To improve efficient operations in hospitals and clinics
Data also provides hospital executives and institutions with insight into the processes of their organisation as a whole to track the performance of each department and ultimately determine their process efficiency. Hospitals can finally maximize the benefit that they get from their collected data, helping to optimize the digitization of healthcare in accordance with the institution’s goals.
For example, data can be a great way to save costs for hospitals that either over or under book staff members. Predictive analysis can help resolve this issue by predicting the admission rates and help with staff allocation, keeping overhead costs under control.
3. To allow for smart policies and better resource allocation
Due to the increasing demand for healthcare services and rising costs in Kenya, policymakers must choose how to allocate healthcare funds most cost-effectively. As the impact of COVID -19 continues to escalate, accountable public budgets that are aligned to the needs of people living in poverty and vulnerable populations are more crucial than ever. Access to precise information and data can facilitate the generation of data-driven insights that facilitate better healthcare decisions that could inform relevant resource allocation decisions both at the national and county level. The allocation could depend on resources on the basis of perceived health needs after the data has been analysed. As a result, making healthcare accessible to all regardless of income or geography.
Similarly, rural hospitals and clinics in Kenya operate with limited resources, yet they are called on to deliver quality services to patient populations that are often geographically and demographically diverse. As such, it is paramount that hospitals in remote locations plan for the time the patient is at the facility to increase patient care.
Now more so than ever – the use of data will improve Kenya’s health’s systems and make efficient improvements within the entire sector to accelerate efficiencies in health systems.