After a hiatus, the Zimbabwe Medical Association ZIMA is hosting a Digital Health Symposium on the 19th of March as a sequel to the eHealth symposium that was last held in 2019. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was the reason for the break in continuity. Interestingly, the pandemic is also the major reason why the event is back on the cards! The aphorism that every crisis presents an opportunity can be aptly referred to when considering the effect, the pandemic has had on digital health. Covid-19 has been an absolute booster shot for digital health. (Cue Pres. Mnangagwa with the emphatic “Bu Bu Bu”)
A clear example of this is the growth in telemedicine or telehealth. Before the pandemic, the utilization of telehealth services was less than 5%. At the peak of the first wave of infections in March -April 2020, the utilization rose to as much as 95% in places like the U.S and U.K! They adopted a digital-first approach to health care provision as a matter of necessity.
Local practitioners undertook the same measures, opting to use WhatsApp, skype and zoom for consulting patients or attending professional development lectures. As the pandemic settled down, the utilization of telehealth services declined but it settled down to about 20%, which is much more than the pre-pandemic level!
The theme of this year’s digital health symposium is thus titled “Realising the digital future of healthcare in Zimbabwe” The intention is to shed the spotlight on the local and international developments in digital health that have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To provide a global perspective, the headline speaker will be Prof. S. Yunkap Kwankam, a renowned global digital health expert. Prof led the formative stages of Global Observatory for eHealth at the WHO in the early 2000s. He is currently the Executive Director of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISfTeH). Through his company Global eHealth Consultants, he has facilitated the development of national eHealth strategies for many countries, Zimbabwe included.
Attendees can also expect to get acquainted with the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s digital health activities being driven by its newly established directorate of Health Informatics and Data Analytics. Working as partners of the Ministry of Health, several NGOs such as UNICEF have been invested in implementing digital health interventions in the rural areas at the community level. Most exciting will be the exhibits from local digital health start-ups who have solutions ranging from telemedicine and electronic health records to artificial intelligence. An award for the most innovative digital health exhibitor will be up for grabs!
The digital health symposium is a testament to the progression eHealth or digital health has made over the years. It is evidence of a change in attitudes amongst the medical profession as they embrace technological change. Years back, eHealth used to be a single presentation at the ZIMA congress. It then became a session on the program. Now digital health has a dedicated event on the calendar! The last event was a success as the Minister of Health was in attendance as Maisha Medik and Health263 launched new products. Health professionals, IT professionals and entrepreneurs should look to this year’s event with much anticipation.
The event will be held at the Celebration Center in Borrowdale Harare. There is also an option for online attendance via Zoom. You can register via this link https://forms.gle/ZR5oN7gZMuqT2ixR7
There are still slots open for interested exhibitors. They can contact the ZiMA office via Victoria Akino 0772 421 304 or Paurosi Mukahiwa 0772 247 877