Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness is to spend an estimated J$1.3 billion towards the digital transformation of the health sector, Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has said.
This work is being done under the Health Systems Strengthening Programme of the Ministry, for which a contract was signed recently with Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd.
“The investment affords us a network of more than 2,000 computers and 400-plus medical-grade tablets that provide universal access to medical records and with high-speed connectivity between the data centre and our 105 health facilities, which would include hospitals and health centres islandwide,” Minister Tufton disclosed during a statement to the House of Representatives on November 16.
He noted that there is also a built-in disaster recovery system and cybersecurity to protect patient data.
“The system also gives us cost savings of more than US$1.5 million on equipment and network connectivity over a three-year period. This development is as timely as it is important, as we look to reduce the transaction costs associated with delivering healthcare in Jamaica and in the shadow of a pandemic that has reinforced the need for a robust and agile health system that is responsive to the changing needs of the population,” he said.
The Minister informed that work under the contract has already started, and through the investment there will be improved access to medical services islandwide, including in rural areas where they face transport challenges or have limited staff.
“We should also see an improved appointment system at our various health facilities, while the introduction of electronic prescriptions will minimise the need for face-to-face interactions,” he said.
“At the same time, electronic access to patients’ medical data means, among other things, that the patients themselves can now get a second opinion without having to worry about getting their hands on the physical copy of their health records.”
The improvements under the programme, made possible through the financial support of the Inter-American Development Bank (a US$50 million loan) and the European Union (a US$11 million grant), will also help to ensure that the health sector can obtain the needed insights into possible illnesses, from cause through diagnosis.
“The improvements associated with this investment supports the creation of a strong foundation for a digital health ecosystem that sees the transition of paper records to digital format, while delivering on the promise of collaborative care, cost control and the use of big data to diagnose and treat patients. This is all while enhancing the overall management of the health of Jamaicans,” the Health Minister said.
Guided by a chronic-care model that allows for interventions at the patient, provider and system levels, in addition to primary-care renewal, the Minister said the Health Systems Strengthening Programme tackles these needs full-on, enabling needed improvements to the physical infrastructure at three hospitals and 10 health centres and providing medical equipment to support the delivery of care in those facilities.
“The investment also takes us further along the road to fulfilling the World Health Organization criteria for a well-functioning health system, characterised by not only the improved health status of individuals, families and communities but also the offer of protection against the financial consequences of ill-health and the provision of equitable access to people-centred care,” Dr. Tufton contended.