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Boosting Healthcare in Africa Through Technology

DHN Note: This is a guest post from Dr Eyenimi Ndiomu. Founder of Ubenwa (See them in our startups list). They’re working on using tech to prevent deaths from birth asphyxia. We welcome guest posts and contributions. Send yours in via our contact page. 

Technology in health care cannot be over-emphasised. Technology in different sectors like agriculture, aviation, have been used to proffer solutions. It is time we looked immensely into technology to solve Africa’s health problems.

Health is a vital part of the society. A healthy population is a productive population. The ideas and innovations in health care, especially of this young and vibrant generation, must be encouraged. We should not only celebrate entertainers and artists but support those who have spent hours to develop ideas to tackle problems of health.

Our government and well-meaning citizens must begin to recognise these efforts to address the challenges of health. From flexible patient records management, delivering low-cost diagnosis, to interventions in care, technology has shown its great potentials in health care.

Interestingly, innovations in healthcare have to be supported by data generated from research. Research in Nigeria and a number of African countries have only received minimal attention and this is the bedrock for proving that such technologies can be applied in practical clinical settings. Convincing results from these studies with a representative sample can form the basis for development, regulatory approval, deployment and distribution of ideas that can be true agents of change.

The right environment for the advancement of technology has to be created. Electricity is important. Constant power supply must be provided for the creation and eventual usage of technology by the end users. Creations on the wings of technology have to look for a way especially in the low and middle income countries to adapt their innovations to be self-sufficient in power. Long lasting batteries and alternatives of solar powered devices should be looked into.

Mobile technology has been a blessing to the world and it is said that more people have access to smartphones than to portable clean water. Innovative applications on smartphones would have a massive impact on the world’s health because a large number of people can be reached. Simple software which has been learned through artificial

Simple software which has been learned through artificial intelligence can be used to direct and advise health care workers especially with lesser skills on how and where to seek for help.

Existing and emerging digital technology has improved patient management in the western world. The better health indices we observe in these countries are consequent on the deployment of digital and other advanced technology in the management of patients. Software on mobile devices like phones and tablets are used to observe patients routinely in wards in developed countries. Patient records are inputted into computers, investigations are ordered and results viewed on the system immediately they are authorised. Health care workers have access to different applications which further make communication among colleagues and their jobs more efficient.

Multidisciplinary inputs for optimum patient care can be achieved as a digital platform is made available to get feedback from online referrals and review.

With all certainty, such systems can be deployed to the low and middle income countries, but the challenges are quite enormous. Political recognition and will is needed to support and to drive these ideas and innovations. The private sector must begin to see into the untapped potential of digital technology in solving Africa’s health problems as well as a lucrative area for investment. Research must be seen as a mandatory aspect of our development and must be encouraged to provide the necessary data needed to support these laudable inventions.

Adaptation is very important in Africa. We need to better understand our terrain, challenges and peculiarities and design projects that are fully implementable in our local communities.

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