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How technology will reduce healthcare costs, by experts

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Healthcare

Stakeholders in the health sector have said that emerging technologies will eventually decrease healthcare inequality, thus enabling quality medical services to be provided to more people for less money.

They 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.

The experts at the 2019 edition of the Information Communication Technology and Telecommunication Exhibition (ICTEL EXPO) said 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.

The experts, who were also panelists at the event, include: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Avon Healthcare Limited (Avon HMO), Adesimbo Ukiri; founder TIC Africa, Tochukwu Egesi; CEO, Medsaf, Vivian Nwakah; Co-founder, Ubenwa, Innocent Udeogu; Co- founder, Helium Health, Bolatito Ovia; and Group Head, Strategy and Commercial, MeCure Healthcare, Dr. Kunle Megbuwawon.

Ukiri, in her presentation on health-tech, said introduction of technology into healthcare delivery in Nigeria would 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 is only a matter of time before Nigeria catches on,” she said.

The event described as the fourth industrial revolution on healthcare was 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.

Ukiri also noted that maternal and infant health is pressing concern that technology can address. “One of our core pillars is maternal and infant health and we are eager to see how health tech companies can tackle this issue. Currently, Nigeria has an infant mortality rate of 68.7 per 1000 births, under-five mortality rate of 107.5 per 1,000 infants and a life expectancy of 53.6 per cent 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 emphasised her position during the panel discussion comprising leading health-tech start-ups offering unique solutions to various healthcare challenges around the country.

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.


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