Use of Electronic Health Records in sub-Saharan Africa: Progress and challenges

J Med Trop. 2012;14(1):1-6.


Background: The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a key component of medical informatics that is increasingly being utilized in industrialized nations to improve healthcare. There is limited information on the use of EHR in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper reviews availability of EHRs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: Searches were performed on PubMed and Google Scholar databases using the terms 'Electronic Health Records OR Electronic Medical Records OR e-Health and Africa'. References from identified publications were reviewed. Inclusion criterion was documented use of EHR in Africa.

Results: The search yielded 147 publications of which 21papers from 15 sub-Saharan African countries documented the use of EHR in Africa and were reviewed. About 91% reported use of Open Source healthcare software, with OpenMRS being the most widely used. Most reports were from HIV related health centers. Barriers to adoption of EHRs include high cost of procurement and maintenance, poor network infrastructure and lack of comfort among health workers with electronic medical records.

Conclusion: There has been an increase in the use of EHRs in sub-Saharan Africa, largely driven by utilization by HIV treatment programs. Penetration is still however very low.

Keywords: Electronic Medical Records; Electronic health records; sub-Saharan Africa.