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Telemedicine seen to redefine Nigeria’s broken healthcare system in 2021

...as pandemic creates opportunities

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for Nigeria’s healthcare sector. The ongoing pandemic has put additional pressure on a system that was already hugely stretched and under-resourced.

Despite this, expert says, the pandemic has opened up a chance for systemic change in a broken healthcare system—the beginnings of which we might start to see in 2021.

Key growth opportunities in Nigeria’s Healthcare includes telemedicine, data sharing, digital mobility, and investments in technologies that support new models of care delivery in both private and public facilities. However, the identification of these growth opportunities is only the first step towards succeeding.

These experts predict that 2021 might be challenging for the sector, but there will be make- up as stakeholders will has began to develop its own forecasting system for long- term survival as the pandemic has placed the industry in a position to take action in adopting and score the opportunities to implement, invest and develop, and the industry needs to partner to survive.

“The condition of the pandemic has tinted the need for lots of health organisations to increase their capabilities and revenue flows to be more resilient, preparing for impactful risk decisions, the increased centre of attention on pricing and care,” says Larne Yusuf a medical practitioner in Lagos.

Nigeria in 2021 should see a tangible, evidence-based impact of how bringing care to the patient can improve cost and outcomes, particularly for those with a difficult set of medical, behavioural, and social determinants of health.

“Patient centricity will redefine the care surroundings in Nigeria’s healthcare sector from practical and home-based medical trials to personalised care management programs, the healthcare value chain will continue to adapt to the needs of the patient at the center,” Yusuf predicted.

Healthcare in Nigeria is still struggling to embark upon the next level of increasing healthcare funding, digitalisation, infrastructural development, workforce where providers move to advance in capturing solutions that can obtain value and opportunities through improving information sharing, analytics and clinical decision support to better access and management of service delivery.

Nigeria’s healthcare is at a crossroads, with the budget for 2021 proposes n547 billion for healthcare, about seven percent of the budget’s total of n13.08 trillion, there is an urgent need for science, technology, and policy to converge toward a better, more efficient healthcare system.

While there is definitely a lot of work to be done, in many ways, healthcare needs to move more in the right direction by building the infrastructure upon which real progress can be realised. And with the right combination of innovation, collaboration and momentum, the sector will be able to continue on this trajectory well into the new decade.

However, in general care coordination and also around COVID-19, patients will experience healthcare development and these changes, catalyzed by consumer behaviour, COVID-19, and technology, among other accelerants, are causing healthcare economic dynamics to reform.

The pandemic has also introduced Nigerians to a completely new way of getting care at home. Expanded insurance coverage for doctors’ visits conducted online, over the video, and on the phone has created a more open dialogue between doctors and patients. If you haven’t already seen a doctor online, 2021 may be the year you finally have a virtual visit. However, whether this process really becomes part of the norm will depend on the government.

Telehealthcare will likely be expanded through 2021, Ayo Shonibare chief medical director (CMD) Evercare Hospital Lekki and a Consultant Urologist and Kidney Transplant Surgeon also predicted.

With the advent of new technologies, telemedicine has become increasingly popular and increasingly important in recent years and healthcare in Nigeria is beginning to look the way of telehealth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and enlightens opportunities to extend and expand telehealth to support population health management and the investments needed to make that vision a reality.

“More people are turning to telehealth platforms to render healthcare delivery across prevention, detection, treatment/management, and monitoring and care coordination. The inability of Nigeria’s healthcare systems to manage the increasing number of patients demand for care has brought about an increase in the demand for telemedicine,” he said

Shonibare added that Nigeria’s healthcare will be likely driven by innovative strategies as it is telehealth expected to change the paradigm in the future, necessitating the need for health care and needed to ensure attainment of the ambitious Universal Health Coverage.

“Technology allows patients; doctors and stakeholders in the healthcare industry to reap benefits of telemedicine. Technology also has a role to play in maternal and infant health. Patients who normally may not have access to antenatal care can also be monitored remotely to ensure better outcomes for both mother and child.

“There are now several home monitoring devices that can be used remotely to help doctors predict conditions that are critical by monitoring identified high-risk patients remotely. This will help reduce fatalities in patients through warning signals, to initiate a transfer to a higher level of care in the hospital setting,” he said.

Health care in 2021 will be shaped by a number of additional topics beyond COVID-19, analyst says 2021 will be crucial for medical devices, learning, and artificial intelligence, private healthcare sector holders will begin to target development in healthcare more on machine to see the benefits in solutions that are extremely scalable and venture in opportunities of investment.

According to a report by Fitch Solutions, healthcare expenditure in Nigeria is predicted to reach N 5.6 billion by 2021 growing at a CAGR of 8.35 percent year-on-year. This is up from an estimated N 5.3 billion in 2020. By 2021, healthcare spending is estimated to make up 2.94 percent of the country’s Gross domestic product (GDP). While the government is expected to spend N1.5 billion by 2021, the private sector will spend N 4.3billion in the same period.

The report also reveals that Nigeria’s medical device market will record double-digit growth in local currency and will grow at a 2017-2022 CAGR of 9 percent to reach $184.4 million by 2022.

Medical devices such as diagnostic imaging, patient’s aids, and orthopedics are related articles designed by the manufacturer for diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment, or alleviation of disease burden.

To take advantage of the growing interest, although the market is predicted to benefit from an improved outlook for the economy and remains almost entirely reliant on imports, chronic underfunding, and the chaotic management of public healthcare services, exacerbated by the insurgency in the northeast region will continue to restrict the market growth in the medium term.

Adaku Efuribe, a Clinical Pharmacist, UN SDGs Advocate & Healthcare Media contributor also predicted that if the industry promotes equality, it will reduce inequalities in health outcomes.

She added that in 2021, achieving sustainable health systems, we have to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. “Public healthcare services should be provided in deprived areas and Health promotion strategies will go a long way to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing of the citizens.

“In order to achieve this, education and public health campaign strategies must be adopted to foster healthy living lifestyles, exercise, and cutting down on alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and banning smoking in public places as passive smoking is equally dangerous,” said Efuribe.

According to Efuribe, a lot of Nigerians are known to ignore the early warning signs of ill health, a great percentage of the populace do not seek medical intervention in good time and always wait for the last minute. This may be due to ignorance, nonchalant attitude towards healthcare, cultural and religious influences.

“Evidence has shown that lifestyle modification and self-care will go a long way in managing certain disease with long-term conditions such as heart failure, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. Avoiding discrimination will improve health outcomes,” she said.

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