Cameroon: Data is Valuable for Healthcare Development – Experts At BornFyne Webiner
By Sonita Ngunyi Nwohtazie & Boris Esono Nwenfor
“Big data” is a phrase that has been used to describe the rapid increase in volume, variety and velocity of information generated, including from the healthcare sector. With this big data, medical professionals are embracing data analytics to create a better patient experience, allowing more immediate and direct access to services and facilitating quicker and more accurate diagnoses and patient management.
Speaking in a webinar organized by BornFyne in collaboration with the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation and the University of Ottawa, on Thursday, January 26, 2023, Justus Ashaba, Health Informatics Researcher, Makerere University, Uganda said: “Digital systems have eased the storing, utilization and accessibility of data.”
“We may still be lacking because this is reliant on technologies and the power of technology keeps changing. Our health systems may not be up to speed with technology. We may have what it takes but we may not be up to speed with technology.”
The webinar moderated by Dr Vera Kun, Research Fellow – Economic Affairs Division of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, centred on the theme: “Data, A Currency for Evidence-Based Healthcare Development: How to Optimize the Generation, Collection, and Exploitation of Data,” with thematic being Digitalization of healthcare systems in Africa. Justifying the leap from paper-based records: what works best? Ethical, political and legal regulations are necessary for the implementation and use of digital technologies in the healthcare sector. What are the potential challenges and avenues for advocacy and Social and cultural willingness to use digital health tools in developing countries: where are we?
Healthcare organizations across the entire care continuum are moving towards value over volume—and their financials are increasingly tied to that model. More data means a more accurate look into patient populations, and better enables organizations to lower care costs and improve health services through more personalized care.
“African countries need to recognize that the successful implementation of technology requires an integrated strategy so there must be a discussion so that the right systems are chosen,” said Wilfred Ngwa, Epidemiologist and Research Fellow, at Nkafu Policy Institute.
“We have similar situations where in certain areas they have not worked properly because the choice of the tool was not something that adapted to it. We’ve had situations where tools have been implemented and people expected to start using without even a proper pilot study.”
Despite the perceived benefits of health data, some major barriers exist, which are both philosophical and practical. To transform medical data into healthcare solutions, many areas need to be addressed, including collection and standardization of datasets, curation of the resultant clean data, prior informed consent for the use of data, and the ability to provide these data back to the communities for further use.
“To achieve universal health in Africa, health institutions are implementing the use of electronic medical records. Such practices are being advanced with the use of partnerships,” Prof Joseph Beyene, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Methods Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada said.
“(The) collaboration within and beyond Africa will go a long way in strengthening the various systems of health.”
BornFyne digital platform aims to improve and strengthen the capacity of district health services and health facilities in delivering innovative, accountable, quality, data-driven reproductive maternal and child health services for women and adolescent girls, marginalized and most vulnerable populations in Cameroon and other sub-Saharan countries. This app enables doctors to store the medical files of their patients in the cloud on a program known as Pre-Natal Management Systems “PNMS” which ensures the safety of the files for future review.
BornFyne is a Grand Challenge Canada Funded project, implemented by the University of Ottawa in Canada. The Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation in partnership with the University of Ottawa Canada, SPRL Donwel Systems, CIRES Cameroon, the University of Zambia (School of Epidemiology and Public Health) and Women in Global Health Zambian Chapter is collaborating with the Ministry of Public Health in Cameroon and Zambia at the district level to continue testing the BornFyne platform in four health districts in the Center and South West Regions of Cameroon and one district in Zambia.
BornFyne-PNMS supports the delivery of clinical care for antenatal care visits and skilled birth delivery at the primary care level, and district hospitals and facilitates referrals to regional hospitals. It supports the health system and the ability to respond, track and monitor health facilities, providers, districts, and regional activities.