On the global healthcare index, Africa’s ranks low. Specifically, Nigeria’s healthcare ranks as one of the five worst in the world, despite massive efforts and investment in health information systems and technology.
In this interview for Ericsson, a multinational networking and telecommunications company, Mr. Olawale Akintola, a senior accounts manager at the company, sheds more light on the role digitisation would play in enhancing the Nigeria’s health sector.
Mobile communications have proved to make a positive difference to people in developing countries, enabling cost-effective access to basic services, such as health, particularly in rural areas where there is little or no infrastrfucture.
Technology works to create innovative models for the development and delivery of global health to millions in developing countries. This will be critical in helping to achieve those Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are related to health, especially SDG 3, which specifically addresses the need to tackle diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious and communicable diseases, reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health.
SDG 17, for which global partnership for development is a focus, also points out the vital role that the private sector can play, especially in terms of information and communication technology, in meeting the other goals. Engaging the private sector is seen as critical to achieving this and all other goals. Mobile communications in particular can empower individuals, communities, health workers and health institutions to streamline knowledge capture, collection and communication in the field of health.
Challenges of digitisation of the healthcare sector
Easy and ubiquitous access to quality healthcare and education forms the fundamentals of any society and makes a huge contribution to the development of a country. Like education, healthcare is not standardized globally and access is impacted by various factors such as poverty and geography. However, constant technological innovations are radically transforming healthcare. In recent times, the advent of automation technologies and remote health monitoring and the concept of artificial intelligence have promised an accurate and optimized delivery of healthcare across the globe.
As an example, ICT does not only benefit medical practitioners in remote areas through the exchange of information between primary and specialty care health professionals, but also enables them to obtain a second opinion to help with diagnosis. This helps in strengthening cooperation among healthcare professionals and improves coordination.
It can also improve the quality of healthcare and reduce costs and unnecessary travel for patients. For example, our Device Connection Platform, runs solutions that simplify insulin-treated diabetes, by gathering and sharing data between patient and healthcare professional through a unified connected device.
Factors that would drive digital transformation in health care sector
Telecommunications has been a significant driver for development, bridging the gap between the developing and developed. It will continue to play a vital role in facilitating access to health services, which help end the cycle of poverty and empower communities to improve their own social and economic situations. Ericsson is committed to harnessing our technical leadership to develop sustainable business models that bridge the digital and health divides.
Roles health tech startups can play in addressing some of Nigeria’s health challenges
ICT solutions can have significant transformative impact through a more efficient health information system. Startups can play a key role in developing innovative solutions, with the goal of integrating healthcare processes, information management and business workflows. Such systems will provide electronic reporting and booking, updates patient records, and digitalizes prescriptions and referrals, so they can be sent to pharmacies, hospitals and laboratories without the need for printouts.
Ericsson’s role to growth of health sector
Telecommunications play a vital role in facilitating access to health services. As the leading telecom provider, Ericsson uses its expertise to explore the use of mobile communications to deliver telemedicine to rural communities, to help to improve access to and delivery of emergency and general health services, assist with disease surveillance and control, enhance the collection of basic health data such as birth and death registration, and deliver mobile learning to health workers in remote areas.