To say healthcare is mostly a luxury in most African communities is an understatement. Healthcare services that are taken for granted in the developed world are largely unavailable in most known and popular African countries. In fact, surviving a basic health challenge is almost like a miracle, and the reasons for that are multi-faceted.
Health, as we all know is a vital resource in the race of life. When our health is challenged, every other thing losses value. The current state of healthcare provided by most governments in African countries is pathetic, and if we in Africa are to take advantage of the exponential age of rapidly developing and changing technologies, a healthy society is a must.
Technology is a resource-liberating force, and this can apply in healthcare as well.
It is known from history that technology is a resource-liberating force, with every technology making what appears scarce to become cheap and readily available. Aluminum used to be more precious than gold before the technology to extract pure aluminum from bauxite was made cheap.
It is this thought that I am bringing to the change I want to see in the healthcare system of Africa. African healthcare providers must begin to think creatively to reinvent and rearrange the tools that exponential technologies are providing for us to solve our healthcare problems. The time to stop waiting for help from overseas is now. Trade is better and more sustainable than waiting and relying on aid.
Most healthcare needs are primary care and “not rocket science”
60-80% of healthcare needs in African communities are largely primary care… this includes malaria, upper respiratory infections, wounds like dislocation and minor fractures, immunization, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and COPD, annual medical checks, well baby care, lump resection, follow-up on chronic illnesses, and normal deliveries for pregnant women. If we can creatively provide quality care to cover these situations in a demonetized and democratized way it will be a huge breakthrough for Africa.
The challenge is that immediate care is largely absent or expensive, and conditions are not diagnosed early due to poor diagnostic tools, lack of information and knowledge.
It is delayed wound care that will lead to gangrene.
It is prolonged high blood pressure that will lead to organ damage.
It is an unattended lump/mitotic change that will lead to cancer in the late stage. We can go on…
Portable, point of care, smart medical devices and other exponential technologies are set to change the narratives
The good news, however, is that exponential technology is rapidly changing the game. The rapid developments in exponential technologies are here for us to take advantage of. About 20 years ago Africa latched on the advent of telecommunications even when she seemed unprepared for it due to lack of infrastructure and policies to sustain that development. The infrastructure and the policies were being developed to catch-up with the technology because we adopted it so fast for its benefits. Most times, new technologies bring more dividends to underdeveloped and developing countries than the developed world, as it helps to skip stages of technological development. Analysts such as Frost Sullivan have echoed this in most of their predictions, and Africa is a major focus particularly in revamping healthcare.
My thinking is this: Mobile devices and point of care diagnostic tools are getting smarter and better with regards to diagnosis. The Internet is getting more ubiquitous and more people are getting on the web even in the most remote areas. It is expected that about 3-5 billion minds are going to come on internet in the next 5 years, most of which are from the developing world. This can be leveraged if we can think creatively and take audacious steps in providing a decent healthcare system for the people. I took a dive into what we currently have available that is yet to be accessed and I was stunned at how these technologies can simply help solve the problem of healthcare in Africa. I will mention a few here, and there are several in different stages of development and commercialization.
Smart devices that could demonetize and democratize healthcare.
Clarius scanner… is a new device that helps to scan. It will provide a clear scan like any other device, and all parts of the body can be scanned on your phone. That means a market woman in a rural community who never goes for imaging through 9 months of a pregnancy can have it done affordably, just as the woman in the city working with the bank can. That is what we call demonetizing and democratizing healthcare.
Alivecor…. Is a portable device that provides on the spot EKGs with instant interpretation. A farmer in the remote village in a riverine village in Bayelsa Nigeria diagnosed with high blood pressure can have an EKG done, which he otherwise would not have done until he was dying and moved to the hospital in a town several miles away. That is democratizing and demonetizing healthcare.
Sight Diagnostic makes a malaria and CBC (complete blood count) device that can be used anywhere with few drops of blood to diagnose malaria. The CBS is useful because low blood levels are the main cause of death in malaria. A device such as this can change the way care is accessed in these communities and makes it better. That is democratizing and demonetizing healthcare.
I could continue to list several healthcare technologies that are using exponential tools like AI, VR, AR, and IoT among others to improve, demonetize, and democratize quality medical devices. The beauty of this is that they are going to improve ever more rapidly. I will use this medium to remind us that we must not ignore this trend because whatever Digitizes may go into a deceptive phase (where people are still trying to see if it works or not) but will enter its Disruptive phase as acceptance grows because it will certainly get better and even become smaller/more portable and thus Dematerialize. As it dematerializes it becomes cheaper and so Demonetizes. Whatever demonetizes becomes more widely available because it is affordable to everyoneone (just like you see with mobile phones today)… and it therefore Democratizes. This will surely happen.
Healthcare is digitizing now and will certainly go through the 6 D’s highlighted above. My challenge for us here is that we need to begin to explore these tools and technologies to redefine how healthcare is accessed in our communities. In a world of distributed everything, those in the developed world must begin to also share the information on what is new and what can help the developing world as well.
I believe we can do this globally, and for me, Africa is my domain. It is time to stop seeking aid or resources from overseas. Let us get resourceful and assemble the tools we need, leveraging exponential technologies to change the face of healthcare in Africa, thereby demonetizing and democratizing quality care for the masses. If it can be done in developed world it can be done anywhere.
Dr Yomi Durojaye.
MD/CEO Cecy health Consult.