How technology is revolutionizing Africa’s Healthcare

Posted on January 25, 2016 02:20 am

Africa is home to more than one billion people and has the World’s least developed healthcare system.Poor sanitation is a common challenge in the continent with diseases like Cholera, Bilharzia, continuing to claim lives in the region.However, thanks to technology in healthcare system, that is bound to change.One of the most critical keys to successful organizational and business performance is the ability to manage the accessibility and processing of information.Across the continent, healthcare, more than other industries, feels the pinch of dealing with substandard and inaccurate information because it is more data rich, data dependant and data sensitive than any other sector of the economy.For example, there are very few Africans who are courageous enough to go for HIV testing which are offered free of charge through government hospitals thanks to donor funding.That makes it hard to get the accurate number of those infected with the diseases in Africa.It is estimated that figures of the persons living with HIV could be double the known number due to lack of data.Practices in medicine requires continuous availability across the various functions to ensure best care outcomes as well as a perpetual state of readiness for possible changes in patient demands, competitive scenario, regulations or disease patterns and new outbreaks like it happened with Ebola outbreak in West Africa where more over 10,000 died and recently Cholera in Tanzania that has so far claimed more than 200 people’s lives.Healthcare information technology forms a pivotal part of today’s Africa healthcare system. There is an Improving quality of healthcare, patient safety, drastic reduction in medical errors and enhancement of care delivery is possible because of the induction of these solutions in the healthcare delivery environment.

In countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, healthcare IT solutions are enabling processes like planning, decision-making related to organizational development, strategic planning to drive growth, recruitment of competent personnel, Payroll, managing employee benefits, intra-department communication to mention but a few. Back office solutions like accounting and finance, resource utilization and asset management are inducing optimal efficiency in healthcare delivery using IT. Even the marketing aspects of care delivery organizations are improvised by various customer relations management solutions. As the number of patients goes up due to increasing population and costs rise, there is a need for better utilization of resources in African countries as well as maintaining inventory and keeping variable costs as low as possible. This can been taken care of by excellent material and asset management modules. Recent studies have established that healthcare IT is slowly moving from its traditional emphasis on administrative function to a more clinical focus and eventually offers a scenario of an integrated delivery network. Adoption of clinical systems will help in efficient medication management. There’s no doubt availability of medical records and clinical decision support systems has take care delivery to new heights. In Zambia and Kenya, there are cases where patients are given the ability to self manage disease and avail of remote consultation and monitoring. In Africa, self-testing, early treatment and the management of medication for chronic diseases and mental health will help prevention of potential ailments along with extended lifespan because more Africans are living longer than ever before. There’s an emphasis on home healthcare services to improve hospital efficiencies and save patient costs.IT is making all this possible. Technology is continuing to improve and offer new opportunities for healthcare organizations in Sub Saharan Africa. Service-oriented architecture in South Africa is enabling integrating legacy investments, improving business agility and overall cost efficiency for major hospitals in the country.

There’s a growing trend in the use of the power of the Web and Web browsers to provide access to clinical information to clinicians based outside the hospital environment. In a recent study about healthcare technologies that will transform Africa’s, wireless communications was touted as number one followed by centralized patient records. The delivery of healthcare is increasingly mobile across Sub Saharan Africa. Improvements in wireless communication systems and devices will further facilitate expanded use of this technology. Also, an increasing demand for efficient patient care, accessibility of data across various departments and patient safety is going to increase the adoption of centralized patient records.In 2016 and beyond, health care industry will remain a preserve of few multi nationals consisting of firms that develop and market solutions for hospital-based provider organizations and for primary care facilities like general physician clinics, or for both low and high income service providers.In East Africa, such vendors are known to provide dedicated solutions for commercial diagnostic centers and laboratories.The trend in the region is about keeping the healthcare consumer as the center of focus. I do predict that there will be a growing integration of primary care systems with enterprise systems and the installation of integrated solutions, hospital-based systems. Solutions for the integrated delivery networks are allowing organizations to serve multiple facilities with differing needs irrespective of the location.IT systems in Africa’s healthcare industry are essential and critical part of operations for healthcare service provider to maintain and achieve better patients appeal and generate sustainable growth as well safer and effective care.

Contador Harrison