By Lovina Manyara
Through effective use of digital technology and health data management as stipulated in the Digital Health Bill 2023, Kenya’s commitments to UHC could be realized by 2030. This bill, which was approved by the Cabinet and introduced in Parliament, seeks to address various healthcare challenges, such as unequal access to services, data availability for healthcare professionals, scarcity of healthcare personnel, high healthcare costs, and patient access to their medical records. Section 104 of the Health Act 2017 mandates the development of e-health legislation, which includes provisions for the administration of health information banks, data security, privacy, and the use of digital technology for health service delivery.
The bill establishes a Digital Health Agency responsible for maintaining an integrated health information system, emphasizing the importance of data governance, confidentiality, and security. It recognizes E-Health as a complementary mode of healthcare delivery, encompassing telemedicine, electronic health records, and more. The bill also addresses issues related to e-waste management, health tourism, and provides the groundwork for future regulations in the healthcare sector. However, the Transform Health Kenya Coalition’s memorandum highlights concerns about the bill’s complexity, data handling, privacy, and potential ambiguities, emphasizing the need for clarity, accessibility, and strong governance principles in the legislation to ensure the successful implementation of digital health transformation in Kenya.
The Digital Health Bill 2023 in Kenya holds the promise of significantly improving access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services. By leveraging digital technology, the bill enhances accessibility, ensuring that even those in remote or underserved areas can benefit from SRHR information and consultations 24/7. The inclusion of telemedicine and telehealth services allows for remote healthcare consultations, while the emphasis on privacy and data security reduces stigma and enhances confidentiality. Moreover, the bill’s data-driven approach can lead to better-informed SRHR policy decisions and streamlined appointment scheduling. Clear provisions for data governance and security, alongside the involvement of county governments, can improve the coordination and delivery of SRHR services. With these advancements and a strong response to concerns raised in the Transform Health Kenya Coalition’s memorandum, Kenya can make significant strides toward achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals by 2030, resulting in better health outcomes and increased reproductive health choices for its population.
Lovina Manyara, NAYA Kenya