SENEGAL— The World Bank has offered the Senegalese government a US$50 million line of credit to assist in its endeavors to digitalize its healthcare system.

Through the Health and Social Map, Digital Health, and Health Observatory Unit (Cssdos), the Ministry of Health and Social Action has started a health digitization project over a period of 5 years (2023-2027).

The global lender funding aims to support Senegal’s joint Ministry of Health & Social Action and Ministry of Information & Communication project, the National Program for the Digitization of the Health System (PDSS).

The PDSS will enable the setup of ICT infrastructure & equipment that will connect hospitals & healthcare facilities across the country.

This project is part of the broader framework of the Senegal Digital Economy Acceleration Project (PAENS), funded to the tune of US$150 million by the World Bank.

The country plans to digitize 1,500 health posts, 110 health centers, and 40 hospitals, but current funding will only cover part of this vast project.

Moreover, in the start-up phase, 20 health centers will be involved, and around 1.5 million patients, 50% of whom will be women, will benefit from the shared patient file (DPP).

The digitization of the health system aims to improve data management, care coordination, and access to health services, thus helping to strengthen the health sector in Senegal.

This World Bank financing also offers an important opportunity for Senegal to modernize its health system through digital technologies.

This is a crucial step towards the transformation of the health sector, allowing better management of medical data, improved coordination between health establishments, and greater access to health services.

The digitization of the health system will promote more efficient patient care and help build the capacity of the health sector in the country.

Dr. Ibrahima Khaliloulah Dia, the coordinator of the Health and Social Map Unit, highlighted the importance of digital health for patients, with the possibility of storing their medical data securely online and facilitating the coordination of care.

“The Senegalese government made digital health a priority several months ago. It has agreed to allocate $50.2 million to address the issue,” said Dr. Dia.

Dr. Dia however argues that the financing is not enough to cover the entire country, “You can imagine what it would take to set up the Internet, equipment, and tablets. That’s a lot of money. Funding this is just a starting point.”

However, Dr. Dia added that what they are aiming for is to digitalize the entire healthcare system, i.e., to ensure that a health post can consult information via a computer, and that tomorrow, if the patient returns, the carer will be able to retrieve the file and update it.

“A patient can have his or her medical record tracked and circulated securely in a national database, and this is a great added value for the patient because there will be savings, and x-rays will not have to be repeated,” Dr. Dia said.

The health official also indicated that the country already has a digital health orientation law bill, yet to be passed by the parliament.

Senegal’s digital economy project

The World Bank, in March 2023, approved a US$150 million grant for Senegal to boost its digital transformation.

Moreso by shoring up the legal and regulatory frameworks around the country’s digital economy, but also by boosting literacy and digital access.

This is expected to increase the number of citizens who can access digital public services and digital healthcare, such as telemedicine, electronic medical records, or apps to manage immunization.

The financing will also go towards strengthening broadband infrastructure, particularly in the Casamance and Groundnut Basin areas.

The investment forms part of a broader strategy – the Digital Economy Acceleration Project (Projet d’Acceleration de l’Economie Numerique, PAEN), which is in turn aimed at bringing about Axis I of the Emerging Senegal Plan (Plan Senegal Emergent, PSE) – an overarching plan that Senegal hopes will turn the country into an emerging economy by 2035.

The Health System Digitization Program (Pdss) is made up of six major digital projects, the Shared Patient Record (Dpp), telemedicine, the hospital information system, the geographic health system, the drug digitization project, the project to digitize community health processes and the electronic health governance project.

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