Kenyans to Have Greater Say in Health care Services Through Online Platform

Written by Naftali Mwaura

Citizens participation in health care provision has been strengthened through an interactive platform that enables Kenyans to engage with both medical personnel and health care facilities in demanding quality and timely medical attention.Two Kenyan lobby groups, Social Development Network (SODNET) and the Kenya Treatment Access Movement have partnered with Kenya Medical Association to launch an online platform that amplifies the voice of citizens in health care service delivery.

The platform, dubbed Huduma, a Swahili word for service was launched in Nairobi on Thursday and will transform the entire health care value chain as citizens demand quality, cost effective and timely treatment of diseases.

Huduma as well seeks to incorporate the voice of ordinary citizens on governance, provision of essential services such as water, sanitation, education and housing.

Philip Thigo, the Programme Associate, Strategy and Partnerships at SODNET reiterated that “HUDUMA strengthens citizen’s capacity in strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTS) to engage with the public sector and demand improved health care services.”

Currently, Kenya is on the verge of becoming a silicon Savannah as more citizens gain access to modern information and communication technologies.

According to Thigo, an estimated 26.4 million Kenyans own a mobile phone while close to 15 million can access Internet services.

“A tech boom heralds myriad benefits to ordinary citizens who can now utilize web portals on their phones or computers to engage with the government and demand better governance as well as quality services that include health care, education, water and sanitation,” said Thigo.

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He added that Huduma creates an ecosystem for change in service delivery. It provides an alert system to enable citizens send an SMS on the state of health care services in their locality.

“They can lodge complaints or recommend an improvement on quality of services delivered by health facilities,” said Thigo.

Thigo revealed that this web based portal will expand to seventeen African countries in the coming months.

Provision of affordable and quality health care services is enshrined in the bill of rights chapter of the new constitution.

Andrew Suleh, the chairman, Kenya Medical Association, noted that “universal health care is an imperative for any progressive society and there is need to involve citizens, the government and other non state actors in expanding access to this critical service”.

Suleh emphasized on the need to scale up ICTs in health care to address bottlenecks that include poor infrastructure, inadequate resources and personnel that inhibit service delivery.

The Kenyan health sector is grappling with a myriad infrastructural, funding and human resource shortfalls.

Suleh most equipment at the health care facilities are outdated and need to be upgraded.

Diagnostics like CT scans are very few. The budget for health is yet to reach the Abuja target of 15% while most health facilities are grappling with a shortage of personnel.

Nevertheless, Suleh hailed the potential of e-health to bridge the gap in service delivery especially among the under-served in remote outposts.

James Kamau, the Chair, Kenya Treatment Access Movement, intoned that “openness in government services is critical. It builds trust and confidence between service providers and consumers.”

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Kamau remarked that “every citizen has a right to health as per the new constitution and Huduma will ensure the realization of this inalienable right.”

He observed that Huduma can be utilized to lobby for increased budget for the health sector.