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Education is key to opening Africa’s medical data
By Janet Sawari  |  Jun 29, 2022
Education is key to opening Africa’s medical data
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Successfully integrating open data sharing in Africa will require that its people learn the benefits of such practices from the economic, medical, and social standpoints. Setting up the right ecosystem to allow data sharing to thrive is crucial to its sustainability in the second-largest, second most-populous continent.

JOHANNESBURG - The biggest hospital in Africa is the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa’s largest township Soweto, occupying 173 acres with approximately 3,200 beds and about 6,760 staffers. According to the hospital’s official website, 70 percent of all admissions are emergencies, including an average of 160 gun wound victims per month.

The hospital’s infrastructure does not reflect the infrastructural permanence that could support the mass data entry of patients passing through it. Instead, it still reflects its original form from the early 1990’s. Baragwanath has suffered setbacks over the years; mismanagement of medical files has at times resulted in the dispensing of the wrong medicines and dosages, leaving patients at risk of worsening infections and, in some cases, even death. 

This represents a single story of the African healthcare system and is one of the most extreme cases that would benefit the most if open medical data was normalized on the continent. 

Defining open medical data

There is a lot to consider when starting any discussion of open medical data (OMD) on the African continent. First, one must establish the major types of clinical data and their uses. Clinical data typically fall into six major types:

- Electronic health records

- Administrative data

- Claims data

- Patient/disease registries

- Health surveys

- Clinical trial data

All these data types are typically compiled together to form a health data record or profile. 

It is important to note how open data will be classified once accessed on an online platform; through ‘clustering’ or ‘grouping’ for insights, the two main ways in

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