Digital health tools can support improvements in health outcomes. But to be successful, countries must align their digital health initiatives. Under the Data Use Partnership, PATH partnered with the Government of Tanzania to create its National Digital Health Strategy.
Mr. Sosthenes Baghume, Senior Information & Communication Technology Officer, Ministry of Health, and Sultana Seif collaborate at the Tanzania Health Enterprise Architecture task team workshop. Photo: PATH
Digital health and data innovations have tremendous potential to accelerate the quality of life and livelihoods of Tanzanians by ensuring access to high-quality primary health care for all. However, there are more than 160 digital health or health-related systems in Tanzania today, ranging in scope, efficacy, and reach. While some systems have been scaled nationally, others are still in the piloting phase. As technology outpaces health systems at lightning speed, a national health strategy offers necessary guidance and a clear path forward.
Tanzania’s National Digital Health Strategy will help to transform the country’s health system in a holistic and systematic manner. This strategy, developed as a result of strong government leadership, helps to secure financing, establish effective governance mechanisms, and facilitate alignment between Tanzania’s digital health initiatives. The strategy also helps to build consensus on policy, facilitate better use of shared resources, and ensure investment in digital skills and infrastructure, ultimately leading to a more efficient health system and better health outcomes.
The National Digital Health Strategy emerges from the broader national health and development goals—the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and Health Policy (2019).
Tanzania’s National Digital Health Strategy (2019–2024) has been developed based on findings from an assessment of the previous strategy (2013–2018). It was also informed by a review of national and international health sector documents, as well as several consultative workshops and key informant interviews, involving training institutions and multidisciplinary stakeholders at national, zonal, regional, and district levels.
The overarching goal of the Digital Health Strategy 2019–2024 is to accelerate increased access to and improved quality of effective and efficient health care to all Tanzanians through digitally enabled transformation of the health system.
The strategy identifies five strategic goals and ten strategic priorities, including the need to strengthen digital governance and leadership; improve supply chain management of health commodities; strengthen disease surveillance, reporting, and response; and use telehealth to build health worker capacity in a changing digital landscape. The implementation of the strategy is guided by patient-centric design, data-driven initiatives, interoperability, open standards, and stakeholder engagement.
The strategy also clearly lays out an implementation plan and develops several governing structures that will oversee activities. These range from a National Digital Health Steering Committee composed of about 20 voting members and 16 co-opted members, to health facility digital health committees that will coordinate activities at the facility level, provide mentorship, and create awareness about digital health. The strategy will also be reinforced by a strong monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan to build an evidence base for the impact and benefits of digital technologies.
The strategy will benefit health sector professionals and other stakeholders throughout the system by improving access to and use of health information and the availability of health services. It will improve the patient experience, helping to reimagine care by placing people at the center of their health systems.
- The government will be able to track and coordinate digital health initiatives across the health sector and will be able to monitor the performance of health systems and the quality of service delivery.
- The health sector will securely and safely use digital health technologies, provide equitable access to specialized health care services, link data systems to ensure interoperability, and uniquely identify patients across health services, ensuring a continuity of care.
- Health workers at all levels will efficiently deliver quality health care for a better patient experience and have access to continuous professional development programs at their convenience.
- Patients will be able to access health information, education, and communication materials to promote healthier behavior.