UGANDA— The Ministry of Health in Uganda has taken a significant step forward in advancing digital health initiatives by unveiling the Digital Health Strategic Plan 2020/21-2024/25 (HIDH).

This comprehensive plan is designed to serve as a roadmap for the development and sustenance of the Health Information System Infrastructure in the country.

With a duration of five years, the HIDH plan is closely aligned with Uganda’s broader healthcare strategies, including the five-year Health Strategic Plan, the National Development Plan, and the Uganda National Vision 2040.

The HIDH Strategic Plan in Uganda is poised to offer strategic guidance for the development and implementation of sustainable information and digital health initiatives.

This comprehensive plan will not only ensure equitable access to quality health data and information but also promote continuous learning and evidence-based decision-making.

The ministry aims also to use it to guide its endeavors towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) principles towards realizing the United Nations’ ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The HIDH implementation plan of which the launch is the starting point, will encompass integration into the existing health information and digital interventions such as the iHFMIS – Integrated Health Facility Management Information System.

The principal objectives of the strategic plan are aimed at supporting the effective use of health information for the purpose of predicting adverse health events and planning health resources required for prevention and treatment.

Among the objectives that were critically discussed as well as the use of the plan to support research development more so in regard to innovation in the healthcare sector.

HIDH is also targeted to impact the operations of the Ministry of Health departments and programs, relevant Ministries departments and agencies, Members of the Parliament Health Committee, and regional relevant health bodies.

In addition, also local Governments, health development partners, the private sector, academia, technology professionals and operators like MTN and Airtel, and the General population have all been encouraged to improve the success of the project.

Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health while presiding over the launch of the HIDH said, The plan will also help in providing a coordination mechanism for health service delivery leveraging Health Information and Digital Health.”

Dr. Atwine called on all stakeholders to continue to support, develop and integrate the strategic plan at all levels of health delivery structures in Uganda.

The strategic plan illustrates how the strategy can help all concerned parties assess health performance in a short period.

The plan also continues to enhance cost-effectiveness as going digital would improve efficiency as information would be more accessible from all parts of the country.

In the last 5 years, the Ugandan government has made efforts to implement patient-level electronic medical records such as iHFMIS.

However, the operationality of these patient-level digital systems has majorly been at a low scale, falling short of the need for digitalization in the national health sector, mainly due to poor internet coverage in the country.

The government as well as stakeholders have made significant strides towards increasing internet penetration with more than 14,000km of Fibre optic traversing the country by December 2022.

Significant progress has been made by the government and stakeholders in Uganda to enhance internet penetration, as evidenced by the extensive deployment of over 14,000 kilometers of fiber optic infrastructure across the country as of December 2022.

This development has paved the way for increased connectivity and accessibility to digital services, including healthcare.

In line with these efforts, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Uganda has placed a strong emphasis on achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The goal is to expand UHC coverage from 48% in 2020 to 65% by 2025.

This strategic focus aligns with the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA73) held in 2019, where “The Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025” was approved.

The overarching vision of WHA73 is to extend the benefits of Universal Health Coverage to an additional one billion people, ensure the protection of another billion from health emergencies, and enable one billion more individuals to enjoy improved health and well-being.

This new paradigm shift in thinking recognizes the transformative potential of digitalization and its pivotal role in advancing healthcare.

In her concluding remarks, Dr. Atwine, a prominent figure in the Ugandan healthcare landscape, emphasized the crucial role of digitalization, referring to it as the “oxygen” that the country needs.

She highlighted that digitalization holds the key to revitalizing efficiency, fostering better health outcomes, and breathing new life into the healthcare sector.

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