Investing in ICT-enabled hospitals

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In recent years Africa has undergone an economic transformation characterized by continuous growth, an emerging middle class, a demographic dividend, technology takeoff and the prospects of prosperity and innovation. But with rising urbanization, an epidemiological transition, and a growing and aging population, the demand for hospital care will inevitably rise. Hospitals must evolve to meet the needs of the new Africa.

Yet health systems are in crisis and Africa lacks the health infrastructure necessary to provide adequate levels of health care services. As a result, health care in most of Africa is the worst in the world. Of 1.5 billion disability-adjusted life years lost globally in 2008, 369 million, or 25%, were lost in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the heavy disease burden, the majority of countries are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, access to and quality of health systems lag behind and the poor suffer disproportionately. Most of the region lacks the infrastructure and facilities to provide minimal levels of health services and products. Over the next decade an estimated US $25$30 billion of new investment in health-care assets, including hospitals and clinics, will be needed to meet the growing demands of the region. The substantial infrastructure needs cannot be met by the national budgets in most countries. Without greater investments in the hospital sector, the backlog will mount and there will be a major shortage of hospitals in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The African Development Bank recognizes the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) in transforming health service delivery in Africa. African countries should leverage the opportunities offered by ICT and e-health to transform hospital service delivery. The emerging telemedicine and mobile phone-based health technologies will enable medical services to be provided remotely and more efficiently. Mobilizing e-health in service delivery will provide African countries with the opportunity to improve governance, facilitate client empowerment and overcome challenges in access and human resources to deliver high quality health care services to their citizens.

Against this background the Human Development Department aims to increase investments in ICT-enabled hospital infrastructure. The Bank’s role in the hospital sector will feature a range of interventions:

  • A regional operation will be established to promote ICT deployment in hospitals. The Bank will help countries embrace modern technology, with the overall objective of establishing a strong ICT infrastructure to support hospital operations.
  • The Bank will support the development of a hospital information system linked to medical records. Technical assistance will be provided and capacity built to manage electronic data and records, including administrative functions. Leaders in the change management process will be trained to guide the transformation to an electronic system.
  • Supporting a new generation of high-quality hospitals in Africa, the Bank will ensure that the necessary expertise is developed for the efficient use, costing and maintenance of medical technology to treat complex diseases.
  • International hospital forums and South-South learning exchanges will be organized to learn best practices in ICT deployment and use.

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