Tonga’s innovative e-health project ready to be rolled out before the end of the year


By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Manila

A new and innovative e-health project that will improve the quality and reliability of health statistics in Tonga is expected to be rolled out before the end of the year.

The Asian Development Bank is finalising the recruitment process for vendors before work starts, either by October or November this year, according to the bank’s Principal Management Specialist for the Pacific, Pamela Wyatt.

“Once it’s rolled out, it will take a couple of years to cover all five hospitals, 12 health centres and 34 health clinics across Tonga. It means that if you have a medical emergency from one of the rural hospitals and you get flown to the main Vaiola hospital in Tongatapu, they will have a record of your medical history.

Wyatt told PACNEWS in Manila, the project will cover medical and health record of all the citizens of the island nation, which has a population of just over 100,000.

She assured information gathered will be safe and secure in a government database that will be accessed only by a limited and authorised government officials – particularly in the health sector.

“The medical record of all its citizens will be there. It will be secure and it will have a unique health identification. We need to make sure the data is protected and this is one of the major issue that we are discussing with potential vendors.

The World Bank is working on a separate e-government project on data privacy and cyber security.

“We are also developing a digital health strategy that will come under Tonga’s national health strategy. The strategy will identify how technology can be used to improve health outcomes.

Wyatt said the Tonga e-health project is a first in the world and one of the world’s developed nation, Canada is keen to learn from Tonga’s e-health experience.

“The other thing the e-health system will do is link with Tonga’s civil registration and vital statistics system (CRVS) that sits with the Ministry of Justice. It will automatically push information on birth and deaths to the Ministry of Justice.

“At the moment, Tongans have a record for every event – birth, marriage, changed name and divorce but they are not linked. Hopefully with this birth and death data coming in, they are also going to look at having people-centric database which helps with national ID, passport, land ownership etc., said Wyatt.

She admits the project will require a nationwide awareness campaign to prepare the people of Tonga to provide their medical and health records to be registered on the online database.

“That’s what we are talking to the youth group about it. Young people are more comfortable about sharing information and they can go home and talk to their parents.

A digital health information system will also be implemented, which will include patient, facility, and workforce registries, while digitally recording data on births and deaths to the government’s population databases…PACNEWS