Digital Healthcare

Dhruvika writes on sustainable practices in various sectors for BuzzOnEarth. Get in touch with her at dhruvika@buzzonearth.com. Sometimes she reads her emails too.

Digital healthcare in Africa has been a huge success. The people living in Africa are receiving the good healthcare they need which is easily accessible as well as affordable. It’s a welcome and commendable transformation that the African continent direly needs.

Most African countries fair low in most healthcare charts. According to the world economic forum, Africa bears one-quarter of the global disease burden, yet has only 2% of the world’s doctors. Some regions only have one pathologist per 1 million people.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) estimates there are about 25 consultant oncologists to approximately 160 million Nigerians, while there is only one pathologist for every 700,000 patient in Sudan.

Mozambique, one of the poorest nation in Africa, has just 584 doctors for a population of 22 million, while Niger has just 288 for 14 million population. And the medical infrastructure and staff are mostly in cities which makes healthcare even less accessible for the rural population.

Taking the Leap…

Digital healthcare
Photo Credits – Deaftronics

Relying on conventional healthcare systems and waiting for them to improve and reach all of Africa is not a viable option in the rapidly changing world. The world needs to empower every human being on the planet through sustainable means to sustain a better life on the planet.

The technology provides the big leap that Africa needs in the healthcare sector. Disruptive technologies can significantly help in lowering the risk of medical emergencies and aid in getting the supplies needed for emergencies.

Mobile phones, apps, tablets, telemedicine, 3D printing, medical drones, etc cost less than the usual medical equipment. With these telecommunication technologies, one does not have to travel miles to consult a physician as it can be done virtually on mobile phones. The boom in green energy also aids in making the technology more affordable.

The recent boom in healthcare startups all over Africa is evident. Ubenwa, a Nigerian start-up, has developed an AI algorithm able to diagnose childbirth asphyxia, which according to WHO, the third highest cause of under-five child deaths, based on an infant’s cry. The app provides diagnoses by analyzing the amplitude and frequency patterns of the cry.

Botswana-based Deaftronics manufactured the first solar-powered hearing aid unit, Solar Ear. Thousands of government health workers in Uganda use a mobile health system called mTRAC to report on medicine stocks across the country.

Mama-Ope is a smart jacket created by a Ugandan engineering student Brian Turyabagye, to help doctors identify pneumonia faster and more accurately.

Africa also facilitates development of 3D printing by using the technology to make prosthetics, medical devices, finger splints, etc. ‘e-NABLING the Future’ project allows anyone to download 3D printing designs, video tutorials and other information about building prosthetic hands to enable volunteers, doctors or anyone on the field to create the actual prosthetics. Moreover, an innovative lab in Lomé, the capital city of Togo in West Africa, built the first “Made in Africa” 3D printer using e-waste.

Apart from African entrepreneurs, World leading tech firms are also partnering up with them to provide the best solutions and cutting-edge technologies, thanks to the government regulations and targeted policies in the continent. In Tanzania, GE with the Ifakara Health Institute is planning to provide portable ultrasound devices for pregnant women in rural areas.

Novartis is also working on a mHealth pilot in Nairobi and Mombasa to study supply chain cycle and develop solutions to ensure the medicines reach patients in need. Through this initiative, pharmacists register their patients for surveys via SMS to map out the locations where they are most needed and to redistribute medicines to those areas.

In 2016, the Rwandan government teamed up with an American startup Zipline, a medical drone manufacturing company to deliver medical supplies to five of its hospitals. Zipline grew in Rwanda and then started operating in the US, its own country because the Rwandan government easily provided access to Zipline.

Zipline along with many other life-saving tech startups goes on to show that the world needs to take a cue from Africa. Africa has given healthcare a new form and truly so. In a world where every industry is continuously evolving, healthcare cannot leave behind. The African healthcare tech holds the power to make treatments and diagnosis easier, affordable and convenient for the world.

The reason that Africa is advancing in tech healthcare and is way ahead of other regions is probably because of the fact that the people strongly feel the need to provide direct solutions to the other people in need rather than launching the product in the market and waiting for it to take off which usually is the norm in the major countries. The immediate need of a better healthcare is motivating people of Africa to provide immediate and convenient solutions. Afterall, necessity is the mother of invention.

 

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