How technology will reduce healthcare costs in Nigeria was one of the key points from the presentation on health-tech made by our CEO, Adesimbo Ukiri at the 2019 edition of the Information Communication Technology and Telecommunication Exhibition (ICTEL EXPO).
Organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Expo is a specialised conference and exhibition, attracting thousands of businesses and stakeholders from the ICT sector. The event serves as a platform for stakeholders to connect and engage each other on new innovations, network with investors, display their products and foster increased collaborations towards navigating key issues within the industry.
Speaking on the implications of the fourth industrial revolution on healthcare, Ukiri said that lower healthcare costs would be an outcome of the widespread application of technological solutions to solve the myriad of health challenges in Nigeria.
“Emerging technologies will eventually decrease healthcare inequality, thus enabling quality medical services to be provided to more people for less money. In other parts of the world, technology has already led to the emergence of new areas in healthcare such as telemedicine, electronic medical records, biometric technology, real-time patient monitoring and even predictive medicine. All these lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment which helps to reduce the cost of in-patient treatments, especially chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. It’s only a matter of time before Nigeria catches on” She said.
Adesimbo Ukiri also noted that maternal and infant health is pressing concern that technology can address. “One of our core pillars at Avon HMO is maternal and infant health and we’re eager to see how health tech companies can tackle this issue. Currently, Nigeria has an infant mortality rate of 68.7 per 1000 births, 107.5 under 5 mortality rate per 1,000 infants and a life expectancy of 53.6% at birth. Nigeria also has a maternal mortality rate of 814 per 100,000 live births. These are statistics that really need to change.”
Ukiri’s statement appeared justified during her panel discussion comprising leading health-tech start-ups offering unique solutions to various healthcare challenges around the country. The panel consisted of Tochukwu Egesi, founder TIC Africa; Vivian Nwakah, CEO, Medsaf; Innocent Udeogu, Cofounder, Ubenwa; Bolatito Ovia, Co- founder, Helium Health and Dr Kunle Megbuwawon, Group head, Strategy and Commercial, MeCure Healthcare.
Some of these health-tech companies, like Helium Health and Medsaf have made strides in improving hospital efficiency with the implementation of electronic medical records and improved the medication supply chain respectively. Others, like Ubenwa and TIC Africa, have had varying degrees of success in tackling the issue of maternal and infant health.
It was particularly interesting to hear about Ubenwa, which according to Udeogu, is an artificial intelligence system that analyses a baby’s cry to check for signs of baby asphyxia, the third leading killer of infants worldwide. For Egesi, the focus was on improving the immunisation rate. This led to the creation of RemindMe, a text-based service which helps nursing mothers in countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda Kenya and Malawi keep track of their children’s vaccination schedules.
For Ukiri, these success stories are pointers to the growth opportunities in the sector and with improved connectivity, the healthcare scene in the country will witness a lot of positive changes over the next decade.
Dr Kazeem Akano manages Client Quality Assurance and Provider Education & Engagement at Avon HMO. He studied medicine at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho and has been working in health insurance for over 5 years.
Dr Akano is also responsible for case management where a key focus area is the management of enrollees with chronic conditions.