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FG commences healthcare digitalisation

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Advancing healthcare through digitisation will enhance patient care and expense.

The Federal Government has officially launched Nigeria’s digital in-health initiative implementation committee. It was revealed that the implementation committee will manage data policy, regulations, and repository management. It will also act as a mediator to create a nationwide digital health ecosystem that will facilitate the expansion of digital health solutions. Prof. Muhammad Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, emphasised at the inauguration of the 20-person committee in Abuja that advancing healthcare through digitisation will enhance patient care and protect their data.

This platform aims to enhance patient health, lower healthcare expenses for providers, enhance the tools used by health professionals and assist policymakers and managers in boosting efficiency and effectiveness while ensuring accountability. He anticipates they will utilise Electronic Medical Records System(EMR) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) to enhance Nigerians’ involvement in managing their health and interacting with healthcare professionals. Dr. Tunji Alausa, the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, highlighted how the absence of standardised data collection and management practices has caused various obstacles for the healthcare sector in Nigeria, hindering its growth.

Digital health efforts will reveal the broad use of technology in healthcare.

Alausa, the committee chairman, emphasised that the digital health initiative will demonstrate the extensive reach of digital technology within the healthcare sector, extending far beyond just EMR and EHR platforms. They aim to transform and enhance the digital healthcare landscape by updating data collection methods, managing data storage, improving data processing procedures, and establishing regulatory guidelines for service provisions. Building this platform will simplify the process of validating data. The first step will involve implementing an EMR system as an integral component of the digital network.

President Bola Tinubu’s vision for the health sector necessitates the digital transformation of the system. Quality data availability is crucial for the health delivery system’s foundation, aligning with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s four-point agenda and the President’s overarching goal. Alausa emphasised the importance of the national unified EMR platform in improving the efficiency of the health system, monitoring public health and disease outbreaks, exchanging data seamlessly, ensuring quality assurance, and promoting research for better national health security.

EMR pilot program to start in federal hospitals in one state per zone.

He believes that implementing a national EMR system would allow healthcare workers at all levels to easily access and share clinical and administrative information between different facilities. He mentioned that the implementation committee would oversee the deployment, architectural design, and testing of the EMR platform by utilising current national digital health policies and framework. They would also offer direction for coordinating, implementing, and carrying out various activities across all levels to advance the digital health agenda.

Furthermore, the pilot program for the EMR platform will be launched at federal tertiary hospitals, starting in one state per geopolitical zone, to assess its effectiveness and precision. Following an evaluation, it will prompt public and private subnational institutions to participate, creating a strong and coordinated national EMR platform. The President aims to create a healthcare system in Nigeria that is both impactful and long-lasting. This system would ultimately save lives, alleviate suffering, and promote overall health for all citizens. Establishing the 20-member committee shows a commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians and restoring the country’s reputation as a global leader in healthcare through the expertise and experience of its members in digital health, technology, and healthcare administration.

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Daju Kachallom, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, emphasised the initiative’s potential to improve Nigerians’ overall well-being by saving lives, alleviating suffering, and enhancing public health. She expressed her dedication to creating a high-quality, fair, and effective healthcare system in alignment with the Strategic Vision for the Health Sector (2023-2026). To achieve this goal, the digital-in-health strategy is being implemented, and the healthcare system will be transformed into a digital format, solidifying data-driven decision-making methods. The plan aims to be seamlessly implemented in various aspects of the healthcare system, such as providing services, funding, coordinating referrals, planning for pandemics, and conducting research.

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