Digitising healthcare will make medical care more accessible, efficient, says Kazakh Minister

ASTANA – Electronic health passports and medical information systems have been implemented in Kazakhstan this year to make medical service provisions more efficient for both patients and doctors. Kazakh Minister of Healthcare Yelzhan Birtanov briefed the government on the roadmap developed to digitise healthcare.

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“Healthcare digitisation, which entails unification of information systems, mobile application use, implementation of electronic health passports and paper-free medical documentation, seeks to improve accessibility and efficiency of medical services,” he said.

Special attention is being paid to promoting a healthy lifestyle and illness prevention, as the ministry plans to communicate information on nutrition, physical exercise and healthy habits using mobile apps by the end of 2018.

SMS (Short Message Service) notifications inviting certain groups to undergo medical check-ups will be introduced by June. Citizens living in the Akmola, Karagandy, Kostanai and West Kazakhstan regions will have the opportunity to register online.

“Patients often have to visit a doctor multiple times and carry all the medical documents. This often results in ineffective time management of both patients and doctors. Therefore, we will launch electronic health passports by June and optimise service provisions using digitisation to reduce the number of visits twice by September 2018,” said Birtanov.

Patients suffering from chronic illnesses will also be able to make fewer doctor visits. Starting in November, the pilot project will allow people with diabetes, oncology and arterial hypertension to obtain prescriptions and submit information on their health status online. Patients will only need to see their doctor in urgent situations.

Electronic health passports will make locating patient information far easier. The programme will also help assess the quality of medical services provided and collect AI (artificial intelligence) data to aid decision making for doctors and patients and predict genetic illnesses and disease outbreaks.

The developments, however, need appropriate IT infrastructure to function fully.

“To date, around 85 percent of workplaces in healthcare, precisely 82,149 out of 97,784, are equipped with computers and out of 6,283 medical institutions only 3,050, or 51 percent, have access to the Internet,” he added.

Almost all institutions at the regional, city and district levels, which serve around 85 percent of the population, have access to the Internet. Regional akimats (governments) will provide computers for all doctors in cities and district centres by the end of the year, allowing the regions to switch to paper-free medical documentation.

“All the initiatives will be implemented by the end of the year, including integration of all healthcare systems and e-passports. Next year, the plans are to launch a system to monitor health status online and use AI analysis. By 2021, we will also use AI and machine learning to predict illnesses,” said Birtanov.

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