Digital health is important to make universal health coverage (UHC) a reality, which I learned from my work as a community health worker (CHW) in Kisii, Kenya. I shared this knowledge with attendees at last week’s ICPD25: The Nairobi Summit, where I was invited to speak at the session “Reaching UHC through Digital Health” hosted by UNFPA, PATH and the WHO.
I’ve been a CHW for more than 10 years. I went through the transition from paper registries for patients to digital registries for patients—and it’s made a big impact on how I do my work. First, my smartphone now digitally connects me to staff at a local clinic without the need to go there myself. When a child is sick and needs treatment that I cannot provide, my app refers them to the clinic to receive more specialized care. It’s important to remember that CHWs can’t do everything. It is critical that we work as a member of frontline health worker teams, including nurses, midwives, and doctors in order to get the job done. Digital health tools are making working together easier, and as a result, our patients receive better, more effective care.
Digital health has also made the way I do my work easier. When I visit a patient, I pull up an electronic, app-based record for the patient. Then, depending on the reason for the visit, the app directs me what to do so I don’t make errors. If I’m visiting a sick child, my app guides my assessment and tells me the correct drugs to give so, at the end of the day, I get the right result and a healthy child.
By utilizing these tools in my community, I can extend the provision of primary health care focused on prevention. As my fellow panelist Dr. Patrick Ndimubanzi, Minister of State, Public Health and Primary Health Care in Rwanda said, “There will be no UHC without preventative health.”
I hope that by sharing my experience of using digital health tools, I was able to highlight the need for governments to continue adopting and investing in innovations. Technology is not just for doctors or those in decision-making positions. CHWs like me can use digital tools even in the most remote areas to deliver primary health care and truly make UHC a reality.