• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Nigeria’s race to tech-powered medicine

Nigeria faces significant healthcare challenges, reflected in a life expectancy at birth of 54 years (World Bank, 2022). This is lower than the global average, suggesting limitations in overall healthcare access and quality. Limited resources and inefficient data management further strain the system. However, a wave of technological advancements holds immense potential to transform healthcare delivery and improve public health outcomes. These advancements hold immense potential to not only revolutionise healthcare delivery and improve public health outcomes, but also unlock significant economic benefits.

Just imagine a future where AI-powered algorithms analyse chest X-rays in rural clinics, flagging potential tuberculosis cases for timely intervention. Studies show that AI-powered algorithms can achieve near-human accuracy in chest X-ray analysis, potentially saving countless lives by enabling earlier diagnoses. Furthermore, AI offers the capability to glean actionable insights from vast healthcare datasets. This translates to the ability to proactively identify disease outbreaks and predict health trends. Public health interventions can be strategically deployed, potentially mitigating future healthcare crises and yielding significant cost savings for the system as a whole by leveraging such foresight.

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Empowering remote monitoring with wearables and biosensors

Wearable technology like smartwatches can continuously monitor vital signs, allowing individuals to proactively track their health. The future of wearables holds immense promise for non-invasive blood sugar monitoring. Biosensors embedded in clothing or wearables are being actively researched, with the potential to revolutionise diabetes management and empower preventive healthcare. (Bhatia, D., Paul, S., Acharjee, T., & Ramachairy, S. S. (2023). Biosensors and their widespread impact on human health. Think about a future where proactive data empowers diabetic patients to manage their health more effectively, potentially reducing hospital admissions and creating a more predictable healthcare cost environment. This translates to a healthier workforce, reduced absenteeism, and a significant boost to overall business productivity.

Secure data storage and analysis are crucial for effective healthcare management. Blockchain technology offers an immutable and transparent platform for storing medical records, improving patient data security and accessibility. Cloud computing offers significant potential to improve healthcare data management and access. Cloud technology can contribute to more informed diagnoses, potentially leading to a significant reduction in misdiagnoses by enabling remote access to patient information and facilitating collaboration among specialists.

Revolutionising Diagnostics with Telepathology and 3D Printing

Telepathology allows digitised patient samples to be analysed by remote specialists, overcoming geographical limitations. This can expedite diagnosis and treatment, particularly for complex cases in rural areas. 3D printing holds immense promise for revolutionising medical education and surgical planning. 3D-printed models allow healthcare professionals to practice procedures in a safe, simulated environment, fostering superior training and decision-making skills. Additionally, these models enable surgeons to meticulously plan complex surgeries specific to each patient’s anatomy, potentially leading to improved surgical outcomes. Studies have shown positive impacts of 3D printing in surgery, translating to potential benefits for patients such as reduced operation times, minimise blood loss, and faster recovery. (BMC Medical Education, 2022).

 “The future of wearables holds immense promise for non-invasive blood sugar monitoring.”

Financing Innovation and Building a Tech-Savvy Workforce

Implementing these technologies requires strategic investment. Public-private partnerships can bridge the funding gap, with the government providing incentives and the private sector leveraging expertise and resources. Engaging development agencies and philanthropic organisations can further bolster financial support. Additionally, upskilling existing healthcare professionals and integrating technology education into medical curricula are important. Collaborations with universities and tech companies can create training programmes to equip healthcare workers with the necessary skills to navigate this new landscape.

The time for action is now

Nigeria can leapfrog traditional healthcare models and create a future where healthcare is accessible, efficient, and empowers individuals to proactively manage their health by embracing these innovations. This vision translates to healthier communities, a more productive workforce, and significant cost savings for the nation’s healthcare system.

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Building on the success of existing initiatives like remote specialist consultations through mHealth platforms, championed by organisations like eHealth Africa, Nigeria is poised for further growth in telemedicine and remote diagnostics. These efforts, alongside the ongoing implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) programmes, establish a strong foundation for leveraging secure data storage solutions like blockchain technology. However, it’s important to acknowledge potential challenges, like limited internet access in rural areas. Thankfully, initiatives like expanding broadband infrastructure can help overcome these hurdles. Additionally, ethical considerations of data privacy and security are paramount. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures and ensuring patient consent are crucial when discussing telehealth and blockchain.

Strong leadership, strategic decision-making, and a clear understanding of the industry are critical for successful implementation. A phased approach, prioritising readily implementable technologies like wearables and telemedicine, can yield quicker returns on investment. As a leader with significant experience driving impactful change in healthcare access, I am committed to leading this charge.


About the author:

Ota Akhigbe is a results-oriented leader with over 15 years of experience driving impactful change in healthcare access. Recognised among the Top 60 African Women in Development for contributions to public health.

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