Electronic Health (eHealth) innovators have asked Parliament to swiftly pass the Data Protection and Privacy Bill, 2015 to enable build public trust and confidence in the system.
Meeting at an eHealth forum at Imperial Royale hotel, experts argued that many people are reluctant to embrace eHealth due to fears that they are not legally protected.
They noted that without a privacy and data protection law, patients would not be sure if there would be redress if their private information was leaked.
Lillian Nalwoga, a program officer at the ICT Policy Center for Eastern and Northern Africa (CIPESA), observed that she was frustrated by the slow pace at which parliament was handling the bill.
“When looking at improving accessibility and user confidence, this is one the laws that needs to be passed because many people are afraid of sharing sensitive health information,” she said. “The lack of a law on data protection threatens many people not to share information.”
The Data Protection and Privacy bill is aimed at protecting the privacy of individuals by regulating the collection and processing of personal information. It also aims at providing rights of the persons whose data is collected and the obligations of data collectors, and to regulate the use or disclosure of personal information.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines eHealth as the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health. Under eHealth, clients’ data can be easily shared among health experts for easy monitoring and sensitization, among others.
Nalwanga further observed that apart from funding, the biggest challenge innovators faced was that not many people know how to use eHealth. She noted that there was need for government to carry out media and digital literacy for citizens to start using the applications effectively.
Joshua Akandwanaho, the applications solutions architect at National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U), revealed that access to eHealth stands at 70 per cent in the country. This has increased access and availability to information and helped raise awareness.
He observed that although private eHealth is facing a challenge of accessibility, government, on the other hand, is doing well as all regional hospitals have embraced the technology.
Currently, the ministry of Health has a number of eHealth portals including the District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2), Health Management Information System (HMIS) and the Medical Records System (MRS).
“We are setting up the national ICT hub that is going to be established at UICT and will provide free space so that innovators can come and innovate. We have plans to connect all the hubs on a single hub so that they access affordable internet that government is planning to introduce,” said Akandwanaho at the forum organized by UNFPA, Health ministry and Unicef.
Apart from passing the Data Protection and Privacy bill, Akandwanaho urged government to introduce free eHealth services to increase accessibility and awareness.