The Digital Health Act, 2023, was enacted alongside the Social Health Insurance Act, 2023, the Primary Health Care Act, 2023, and the Facility Improvement Financing Act, 2023. All were designed to fortify Kenya’s health sector. The Digital Health Act, 2023, was enacted to provide a wider legal basis for healthcare financing, health service provision, and universal healthcare coverage, as well as to strengthen the legal framework on the same. Kenya has experienced steady progress with regard to digital technology transformation in its health sector, and these advancements need to be coordinated, hence the reason for the signing of this Bill into law.
This Act has established an agency known as the Digital Health Agency, whose purpose is to create a legal foundation for building a Comprehensive Integrated Health Information System that shall be used in managing digital systems that are required during health information exchange. The system’s scope of work extends to, but is not limited to, collection, analysis, reporting, storage and sharing of health or anything relating to the health, whether mental or physical, of an individual for the specific purpose of providing healthcare services. In addition to that, the Act has employed health and health-related data for operational management and provides essential support for healthcare policy decisions.
The Act has classified health data into categories such as sensitive personal health data, anonymized health data, administrative data, medical equipment data, research for health data, and aggregate health data. The Cabinet Secretary under the Ministry of Health, alongside other agencies under the Ministry of Health (the Digital Health Agency included) are responsible for ensuring the confidentiality, privacy and security of not just the health data held in the Comprehensive Integrated Health Information System, but also any personal sensitive data relating to an individual in compliance with the Data Protection Act, 2019. Before collection of any data whatsoever, the individuals must give their consent. With a view to maintain and use this system in the long run, an individual’s data shall be maintained for a minimum of twenty years by default, and the Cabinet Secretary under the Ministry of Health is required to develop regulations on the disposal of this data should the time period elapse.
Besides data collection, the Act has introduced ‘E-Health’, which is a recognized mode of health service delivery. This service seeks to provide easy, safe, secure, reliable, and equitable health delivery services to individuals. E-Health is viewed quite similarly to a normal and usual hospital walk-in; however, this time, the whole process is done electronically. With Kenya taking an electronic approach towards the delivery of healthcare services, the Act has placed an obligation on the Cabinet Secretary under the Ministry of Health to implement all necessary means to safeguard the transfer of individuals’ medical records to and from facilities outside Kenya. All in all, the Act has involved all stakeholders, i.e., medical practitioners, patients, etc., all in a bid to provide access to a central source regarding health activities in Kenya.