New study reveals limited eHealth regulation in sub-Saharan Africa
A year-long study on eHealth Regulation in sub-Saharan countries shows that they have much to do to catch up with global good practices. Few have specific regulations for eHealth and rely mostly on telecommunications and data protection laws, but these only provide partial coverage. The average for a sub-Saharan country is less than half of all the eHealth regulations needed. Greenfield, a consultancy based in South Africa, and its partners Jembi Health Systems, Fraunhofer Institute and Thales Alenia España completed the study for the European Space Agency (ESA) during May.
“Africans use eHealth every day to solve healthcare challenges. The time is ripe to strengthen the regulatory environment to move this forward” says Greenfield consultant and epidemiologist, Malawian Peter Nyasulu.
The study provides a comprehensive review of eHealth regulation in 48 African countries, suggests specific actions needed to implement a complete eHealth regulatory framework and identifies the most promising scenarios for implementing the fertilisation projects in the second phase of the eHSA Programme.
Study outputs include:
- A Reference Regulatory Model, instantiated with all types of eHealth and 64 eHealth regulatory aspects
- Details of regulatory environment gaps between five best-practice countries, which have specific eHealth regulations, and the study countries in Africa, which rely primarily on telecommunications, data protection legislation and cyber-security legislation
- Ten African countries that are shown as ready to develop eHealth regulation using a Regulatory Readiness Index that comprises each countries RRM position, their information society and eHealth maturity, using the International Telecommunications (ITU) information development index and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) eHealth survey, and healthcare spending per head of population
- Roadmap for the ten ready countries with a five-year horizon, the first two years assigned to developing eHealth regulation processes, organisations and resources and compliance, then expanding specific eHealth regulation from year three.
- Roadmap for other countries with a five-year horizon with the first four years assigned to developing eHealth regulation processes, organisations, resources and compliance, then expanding specific eHealth regulation from year five as they expand their eHealth initiatives.
The regulation study concluded with two international eHealth regulation workshops, held in Botswana and Ghana with 10 African countries represented.Key regional stakeholders such as the African Union Commission (AUC), WHO-AFRO, NEPAD-Agency, AfDB and SADC participated in the workshops. Thesevalidated study findings and provided the study team with valuable insights into eHealthdynamics, challenges and specific eHealth initiatives in the region, and enabled the countries to start setting their eHealth regulation frameworks in place.
Project advisory board member Dr Ousmane Ly remarked: “eHealth regulation is critical for all countries. I am here to take key messages home to strengthen our plans in Mali”. This was echoed by participants from many countries, particularly Rwanda, Botswana, Senegal and Ghana.
A number of countries have begun planning how to include study findings and recommendations in their on-going eHealth development work.Says Greenfield International Relations Advisor Lesley Dobson “Our team will continue supporting these countries’ efforts to embrace eHealth opportunities to strengthen healthcare”.
Greenfield CEO Dr Sean Broomhead echoes this sentiment: “Our work in Africa is far from over. During the next 12 months we will provide extensive support to non-profit TinTree International eHealth to help the NGO support countries and regional bodies such as WHO-AFRO to move eHealth, and itsregulation forward.”The eHealth regulation road maps and action plans provide detailed material to support countries’ efforts.
The study is one of four horizontal studies of the first phase of ESA’s Satellite Enhanced eHealth for sub-Saharan Africa (eHSA) Programme. The other studies deal with governance, interoperability and sustainability.
For the full summary report click here.
More information is available from Lesley Dobson, International Relations Advisor, Greenfield Management Services, Kimberley, South Africa.
Phone: +27 53 832 2655