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Digital Health Bill 2023 for Kenya: – A Critique on the Interpretation of Health Data

By Njoki Kimemia Legal and Data Protection South-End Tech Limited

The Digital Health Bill of 2023 was introduced and read for the first time in the National Assembly on Thursday, September 14, 2023. The Digital Health Bill 2023 is a  legislative initiative in Kenya that aims to address legal and regulatory gaps in the digital health ecosystem.

The Bill recognizes the role of technology in healthcare and focuses on areas like m-health, telemedicine, and e-learning. The  key objectives is to facilitate the development of cloud storage of health data and regulate its exchange in Health Data Banks. However, one concern raised is the lack of specific definitions of what constitutes health data in the bill, other than what is provided in the Kenya Data Protection Act.

Sensitive health data goes far beyond just names and addresses. It includes:

  1. Medical History: Past and current medical conditions, surgeries, treatments, and medications.
  2. Diagnostic Information: Results from medical tests like blood tests, X-rays, and MRIs.
  3. Prescription Records: Information about prescribed medications.
  4. Treatment Plans: Details about medical treatments, therapies, surgeries, and rehabilitation.
  5. Mental Health Records: Records related to mental health assessments, diagnoses, and treatments.
  6. Genetic Information: Data about an individual’s genetic makeup.
  7. Biometric Data: Biometric identifiers collected for medical purposes.
  8. Health Insurance Information: Coverage, claims, and billing details.
  9. Contact Information: Personal details linked to health records.
  10. Demographic Information: Age, gender, race, and ethnicity for research purposes.
  11. Health and Wellness Tracking: Data from wearable devices or health apps.
  12. Health-related Communications: Messages between patients and healthcare providers.

While the Digital Health Bill represents a significant leap towards modernizing healthcare in Kenya, there’s room for improvement. The lack of a comprehensive definition of health data is a concern, but it’s a challenge that can be addressed during the bill’s legislative process.

Since the bill has just undergone the first reading, there can be a need to advocate for amendments to include the mentioned definitions and ensuring that data privacy and security concerns are adequately addressed in the final version of the bill. However, if this is not the case, the Bill, once passed, can pave the way for subsequent regulations and guidelines that fill in the gaps and provide clearer definitions of health data.

Stakeholders, including lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and data protection experts, can collaborate to ensure that the legislation aligns with global best practices and safeguards individuals’ sensitive health information.

In summary,

The Digital Health Bill, 2023 aims to address legal and regulatory gaps in the digital health ecosystem in Kenya. Without clear definitions and provisions for these types of data, there might be challenges in effectively protecting data privacy in the healthcare sector while adopting technology.  However, it needs to include specific definitions of health data to ensure comprehensive data protection. It is crucial to address this issue while the bill is still being considered to create effective regulations and guidelines.


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