Experts canvass use of technology to overhaul Nigeria’s wobbly healthcare system

Health experts want federal and state governments to use advanced technology to cut costs and reduce inefficiencies in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

They urge the government to pay more attention to the health sector and engage in activities to move the sector to a more advanced and globally accepted standards, especially through increased fund allocation and advanced technology.

At a breakfast meeting organised by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, themed ‘Improving quality outcomes through health information technology’, Francis Adedayo Faduyile, national president, Nigerian Medical Association said in his keynote speech that the traditional way of delivering healthcare has led to thousands of deaths and serious injuries.

He said despite the increasing number of mobile smart phones and computer use in Nigeria, there is a very low use of technology in Nigeria’s healthcare system. He said use of technology will give a proper record of patients and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and wrong medication.

He advocated for telemedicine which will improve access to healthcare, improve service quality and patient demand while cutting costs for all players.

Ola Brown, medical doctor and managing director of Flying Doctors Nigeria, said Nigeria’s problem, including the overall challenge of funding, can be addressed through advanced technology.

She disclosed that Britain allocates $200bn per year to the health sector for its 60 million citizens, thereby spending $4000 dollars on each citizen, while Nigeria has $1 billion per year which has to take care of 200 million citizens at $6 per citizenship.

Brown said fixing health care in Nigeria will require the expansion of primary health care centres, less workload on the available doctors through task shifting of health practitioners, sustainable healthcare funding, citizen advocacy for healthcare and establishment of more specialist hospitals and less general hospitals, as well as better remuneration for medical doctors.

She said it will take years for Nigerians to enjoy high doctor- patients ratio again, advising the government to leverage on technology to do more with less. She added that the use of advanced technology will foster quality, easily accessible healthcare at a leaser cost.

Another panellist, Clare Omaseye, managing director of JNC International Ltd. (JNCI), said that there is a direct correlation between health and wealth, which currrently reflects on the economy. She said the Nigerian system is on life support and requires serious attention.

She disclosed that Nigeria loses $1 billion on medical tourism annually, which equates the same amount for the health budget, advocating that medical tourism be reduced.

She stated that Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit will require $ 3 trillion dollars annually to get Nigeria to the right level.

She advised government to address the infrastructure deficit by leveraging technology and public private partnership while creating an enabling environment for private companies to invest in, by lowering entry barrier and reducing unnecessary taxes.

Speaking on the country’s brain drain of medical practitioners, she said there is a direct correlation between the country’s economic problems and the continued brain drain of health practitioners in the country.

“Seven medical practitioners leave the shores of Nigeria every week for better opportunities,” she said.

She added that lack of necessary tools and facilities, poor infrastructure, poor remuneration of doctors, and unavailable space for residency opportunities worsen brain drain.

Adedayo Faduyile recommended revamping the healthcare system in Nigeria and incorporating advanced technology to achieve a more quality system. He said both federal and state governments should allocate substantial amounts to the health sector.

Oluwatoyin Akomolafe, president, NACC president, represented by Ikenna Nwosu, national treasurer of the association, said by strategically incorporating ICT tools into healthcare delivery, there is a potential to improve healthcare quality and safety as well as the efficiency of healthcare and public health service delivery.


Gbemi Faminu