Dr Rolene Wagner, CEO of Frere Hospital in the Eastern Cape

For a maiden conference, eHealthALIVE2016, bears all the hallmarks of becoming a regular and important conference in the calendar of health IT specialists, policymakers, health politicians, leaders in health care in civil society and many others.

Held over two days at the Sandton Conference Centre, speakers explored a wide range of topics bringing delegates up to speed on the various eHealth initiatives on the continent (and further afield in Sri Lanka) and their impact in transforming and streamlining healthcare delivery.

The first day of the African eHealth landmark event brought together key decision makers from Ministries of Health from across the SADC and East African regions, as well as South African provincial and national Departments of Health, to share key insights and best practices on how to use health IT to transform and innovate healthcare on the African continent.

eHealthALIVE2016 is the first conference of its kind dedicated to driving eHealth excellence in Southern Africa.

After a warm welcome to the inaugural event by COO of the South African National Department of Health (SA NDoH), Dr Gail Andrews, conference attendees were addressed by the revered CEO at Frere Regional Hospital, Dr Rolene Wagner, where she used the public hospital as a case study to illustrate the power of information-based decision making to improve the quality of care delivered to patients, and leveraging ICT to establish a Centre of Excellence in public health.

Technical Assistant at the NDoH, Dr Peter Barron, and General Manager at the Praekelt Foundation, Debbie Rogers, discussed how mHealth is changing the health of people in Southern Africa, followed later in the afternoon by a keynote address on Useful Data for Decisions by Executive Director of HISP-SA and HISP-Namibia, Dr Vincent Shaw.

The first Roundtable of the day heard from numerous industry experts sharing their insights into how mHealth initiatives can have the most impact on health and how they can be harnessed to build the health ecosystem. Speakers included Prof De Wet Swanepoel from hearScreen, Warren Lambert from VP Health Systems, Andi Friedman from Mobenzi and Dr Michael Mol from Hello Doctor and was Chaired by COO at HISP, Dr Gugulethu Ngubane.

Three parallel workshops were delivered in the afternoon where attendees had the opportunity to explore projects and issues facing eHealth implementation first-hand, taking a deep dive into the essential topics of Standards and Interoperability, DHIS use-cases from three countries and Africa’s first large-scale mHealth initiative, MomConnect.

Following the successful first day of eHealthALIVE2016, day two of the event further brought together healthcare specialists representing government, academia and the private sector to discuss how eHealth can be developed and implemented to address healthcare challenges across Africa.

eHealth and Informatics Lead East African Community, Daniel Murenzi, opened with a keynote address where he shared his experiences facilitating collaboration between the five East African Community (EAC) Ministries of Health.

The first Roundtable of the day brought together representatives from Ministries of Health from across Southern Africa where they reflected on the outcomes of day one. The panellists, consisting of Daniel Murenzi; Health Commissioner of Uganda, Dr Eddie Mukooyo; and Dr Sean Broomhead from Acfee offered their perspectives on the role of eHealth in supporting impact and accountability, particularly for driving and reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, Prof Vajira Dissanayake, followed with a keynote address where he shared his experience in building eHealth capacity by spearheading the training of medical doctors and dentists in Biomedical Informatics and the impact it’s had on the health of Sri Lankans.

Attendees were given the opportunity to attend three parallel workshops where they were able to hone their knowledge and skillset in measurement and accountability, Big Data Analytics, IoT and Cloud, and Standards and Interoperability.

A Stakeholder Engagement Roundtable Q&A session brought eHealthALIVE2016 to a close, where participants were able to engage with a panel of health information systems leaders on key questions facing the development of eHealth in the region. Lessons learned from presentations during the conference were discussed, including eHealth opportunities for enhancing eHealth governance, measurement and health information systems performance, stakeholder collaboration, data use and data quality.

Critique: A resounding success.