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UHC and ICT: More than Just Acronyms

By Caren Althauser, Program Officer, Digital Health Solutions, PATH

Dec 12, 2014

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Today is the first-ever Universal Health Coverage day and the two-year anniversary of a unanimous United Nations resolution endorsing universal health coverage. Over 500 organizations around the world are working to ensure that “every person, everywhere, has access to health care without financial hardship.”[1]

Last week, Kate Wilson, Digital Health Solutions Director, and I were in Manila, Philippines to host a workshop for the Joint Learning Network (JLN) for Universal Health Coverage’s Information Technology Initiative and also attended the 3rd Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN) General Meeting and the Conference on Measuring and Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with Information and Computer Technology (ICT).

Photo: PATH/Caren Althauser

Approximately 290 eHealth leaders from 25 Asian and four African countries attended these meetings, all of whom are on a shared journey to provide social health protection via UHC.  With support from collaborative development partners including the Asian Development Bank, World Health Organization, Norad, GIZ, UNICEF, USAID and others, the attendees participated in plenary and panel discussions, a meet-the-experts open forum, displays to discover critical issues related to monitoring and evaluation of UHC and the role ICT-enabled health information systems may play in it. The outcome of the work sessions included ten key actions ‘iCTen Steps’ that countries endorsed for achieving UHC with ICT.

Dr. Alvin Marcelo, co-chair of AeHIN notes, “The AeHIN community has now converged around a focus — UHC with ICT. ICT can be used in so many ways in healthcare, and although all of them are probably right, setting our eyes on UHC helps us make better decisions on strategies and investments and ultimately develop better ways of measuring our success in ensuring quality healthcare to our people.”

We now know that once the important decision has been made to implement UHC, ICT is a no longer a luxury – it is a necessity. It is impossible to pay providers, ensure quality health care, and track health outcomes, without a robust health information system.

“Now is the time to optimize ICT investments by improving infrastructure and building local capacity through AeHIN and Joint Learning Network communities of practice to scale and sustain efforts towards UHC.” –Mark Landry, WHO.

UHC-supporting ICTs are being successfully launched around the world.  For example, Ghana introduced electronic claims in the spring of 2013 using an eClaims standard format.  Countries are sharing their experiences and lessons learned and this format is documented in the openHDD tool, a collaborative, web-based, open-source health data dictionary developed through our work facilitating the JLN Information Technology Initiative, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

PATH is honored to be a supporting partner on this journey to universal health coverage. We have been fortunate to support the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage over the past 4 years and AeHIN for the past 3 years, and are looking forward to the launch of the African Network for eHealth (ANDH) in 2015. The BID Learning Network was modeled on the JLN and, moving forward, we hope to continue to leverage learnings between the two groups.

We are excited to be able to provide tools like our recently launched eBook on standards and interoperability, “Connecting Health Information Systems for Better Health: Leveraging Interoperability Standards to Link Patient, Provider, Payor, and Policymaker Data,” that help make this journey easier by sharing global best practices and learnings.

Image: PATH

This type of peer learning is essential in successfully guiding us to our destination. What are your best practices?  What have you learned?  Please share your experiences via BID Initiative Google Groups.

For more information please visit the following sites:


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