Summit prompts call for national ‘telehealth, smarthealth’ strategy

The profusion of digital health innovations, which continue to grow in number and in ingenuity, is giving medical practitioners access to tools and solutions to mitigate many barriers to care and deliver long-term sustainable solutions.


“But this can only be achieved with robust public and private sectors working together to deliver quality care to all the people of this country,” the Alliance of South African Independent Practitioner Associations (ASAIPA) has pronounced in a comprehensive manifesto Digital & Telehealth Manifesto titled “A Smart Solution for Health Equity and Systems Strengthening” produced from the various platforms presented during the Smart Health Summit in Johannesburg at the beginning of the month.

To this end, the alliance has called for a collaborative effort to develop a National Telehealth/Smarthealth Strategy to cover all aspects of telehealth including electronic health records, health data interoperability and health information exchange systems.

Having partnered with Africa Telehealth Collaboration and event organisers, dx5 in the creation of the conference programme, ASAIPA has based its manifesto on summit deliberations and outcomes drawn from the declared goal of the summit, i.e. to improve health access, quality care and the health system as a whole with the common belief that digital health, underpinned by novel and improved technology, “holds immense power and potential as a vehicle to achieve this common goal”.


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Acknowledging that there were still barriers to virtual care, it has been noted from the proceedings that these are not insurmountable. Among those cited have been fear of change with patient and practitioner reluctance or a lack of confidence in adopting digital health solutions, a lack of technological literacy or education to assist healthcare providers understand the risks and benefits of new innovations, and working in silos instead of collaborating, particularly between the public and private sectors.

There was also a paucity of guidelines to regulate the industry to ensure patient safety and standards of quality care as well as practitioner revenue stream concerns, regulatory barriers, and “understandable” concerns around the security and privacy of data.

Allied to recommending the establishment of a National Telehealth/Smarthealth Strategy, ASAIPA has asked that a space be created to continue knowledge sharing and collaborative action where all interested parties across the public and private continuum have a platform to be heard and to contribute to the digital health agenda: “This platform should promote innovation!”

Importantly it has been noted that these measures should be designed to enable engagement with regulators to establish regulatory frameworks that are flexible enough to adapt to innovative change, i.e. create solutions to the current regulatory barriers that hinder data collection and sharing for health interventions and outcomes.


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