In the past decade, the focus on bridging the digital divide among African health systems has been gaining momentum. However, the use of technology in Africa lags far behind other regions. This is a situation that holds great potential to transform the way health services are delivered in the region.
As Africa’s population continues to grow, it is important to recognize the potential for technology to address the health needs of the people in the region. A study from the Global Observatory on Health Technology Innovation found that the level of usage of digital solutions in African health systems varied across countries. The report also noted that many African countries have a high prevalence of malaria and other infectious diseases, which is a major cause for concern. Despite the significant impact that digital innovations can have on the continent, the industry faces several challenges.
One major challenge is the limited access to health care in the region. Approximately 80% of the population in the continent does not have direct access to professional healthcare advice. Moreover, the cost of professional healthcare is prohibitive to many Africans. Fortunately, innovations such as telemedicine can help improve the situation by allowing health workers to provide more comprehensive care.
Telehealth is an area of opportunity in Africa, as many rural areas lack basic healthcare infrastructure. With telehealth, health workers can get second opinions and help patients get better treatment. It also helps to improve monitoring and program delivery. Some countries have been successful in implementing telehealth programs. Using a telehealth solution, hospitals and doctors can easily collect and curate accurate data feedback loops.
Another important area of opportunity is in the pharmaceutical sector. Several African countries are facing high rates of maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases. To address these issues, disruptive innovations can be developed to improve the quality of health care.
Several health care startups are developing digital health solutions to address these challenges. For example, KEA Medicals is working on a digital hospital management system. Meanwhile, Pharma partners with health insurance companies and major pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide affordable prescription drugs to low-income individuals. Patients can receive a 20-30 percent discount in the partner pharmacies.
Another innovation is the use of Internet of Things to monitor the health of people in remote areas. Many African countries have a large population living in rural areas, making it difficult to obtain basic medical care. Using mobile phones and other electronic devices, these countries can track the health of their citizens.
African governments can capitalize on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the health care sector by investing in digital health solutions. Whether it is to increase access to care, improve the efficiency of care delivery or bridge health care and the economy, technological interventions can have an immense impact. Yet, these efforts will require significant investments in the digital technology industry.
The most effective 4IR strategies in Africa will involve substantial investments in digital infrastructure. A strong multi-stakeholder collaboration must be fostered to address these challenges. Furthermore, accelerated engagement is necessary to address the issues related to non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases.