The health sector in Africa has faced many challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic elevated these challenges, and the need for improved health facilities has grown. However, there have been some developments, and in this article, we will take a look at how new technologies can help in improving healthcare in Africa and the relevance of technology and innovation in the future of healthcare.
Apps Maketh The Health
Due to the various Covid-19 lockdown rules and regulations, interacting with one another has changed. With less encouragement for human interaction, many developers started exploring the idea of having medical emergencies and information apps. For example, Hello Doctor, a South African app, provides essential healthcare information, access to advice and a call back from a doctor for R55 a month. Here, people can interact with medical professionals, search for their symptoms, book an appointment and more. In Uganda, clinical trials are testing an app and device for diagnosing malaria. They have developed a tool that diagnoses malaria without a blood sample. It clips on a finger, and by shining a red beam of light on the skin, it can detect Plasmodium — a malaria-causing parasite — in red blood cells. The results can then be viewed via an app.
While keeping with the spirit of apps, the public health sector in South Africa is notorious for long waiting hours. A South African named Neo Hutiri, upon needing his tuberculosis medication, had to wait about three hours every other Friday. This inspired him to develop Pelebox, a smart locker system that dispenses medicine to patients with chronic illnesses. When the medication is ready, patients receive an SMS message with a unique code that opens the locker. This app is designed to save staff time, and so far, 13 machines are operating in the Gauteng province in South Africa.
As mentioned before, hospitals in Africa face a lot of challenges in their health sectors, such as a shortage of healthcare professionals. This is because there are many people from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as unhygienic water and sanitation services, and this makes them need medical attention more than anyone. Access to healthcare facilities is far and requires them to sit for hours waiting for help. However, with the future of technology in the health sector, there have been trials and tries to get people to receive their medication from the comfort of their homes. Chronic illness patients often get their medication delivered by either a courier company or nurse who will also administer a check-up. This saves a lot of time for both the patients and the healthcare facility.
Our healthcare facilities are in need of an upgrade in order to assist the many people that frequent them. With many challenges such as lack of water and sanitation, not having the right foundation or equipment to build, there is hope in institutions like the DBSA who create health infrastructure projects to help those who need access to these facilities.
But Why Do We Need It?
Technology can help improve the state of our healthcare system in Africa. With the right investment, we can have mobile clinics closer to people, create transport options that will help patients get to their treatment and improve the very infrastructure of our facilities. This needs time and money, and with government sectors and development finance institutions helping out with infrastructure, information and communication technology, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Not only do we need to improve our healthcare system, but we also need to fuel the youth into taking a career in healthcare. While doing so, the tech sector’s development will ripple into healthcare development too, so there is merit in investing in that industry.