Harnessing mobiles: making insurance digital and mobile
A modern health system needs to be simple, flexible, fast and reliable. As Nepal shows, digital solutions are the key to success.
The main thing that health insurance should provide is reliable, rapid assistance in the event of an illness, and the best way to do that is digitally. Paper-based systems are prone to error and slow down the exchange of information. Commercial software is so expensive that many countries do not buy a licence. The freely available software Open Source Insurance Management Information System (openIMIS for short) fills this gap. It is now being used throughout Nepal.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been helping the country to implement this project since 2016, using the openIMIS software to offer better access to health care. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ teamed up with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to advise Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population on digitising the national health insurance system.
The software has an open source code, so its modules can be adapted. In Nepal, people can register their insurance using a mobile app. If they need to go to hospital, they can use their smartphone to show their insurance details. More than six million people – around 20 per cent of the population – have already registered.
Key element of the health system
Damodar Basaula is Executive Director of Nepal’s Health Insurance Board. ‘OpenIMIS is improving Nepal’s health system. People receive faster, better care,’ he explained. The system puts people at the heart of programming, allowing them to benefit from easy access to the health system. The population is actively involved in refining the software. ‘We are in close contact with the local authorities, which means we receive suggestions about new functions,’ Dr Basaula added. ‘The open software makes it easy for us to integrate these ideas effectively.’
The program is hence a key factor in implementing a modern, digital health system in the country. Nepal is not the only country where GIZ is harnessing the software to develop individual digital solutions. It is using the openIMIS software in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to improve the health system there too. More than 10 million people across the globe have already registered and are benefiting from digital solutions to protect their health.