KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • The lack of dedicated health facilities in Africa combined with high consumer demand create a lot of opportunities for international healthcare pioneers.
  • Because of access issues and high costs, there has been a recent push toward digital health solutions and portable devices to address the lack of primary care.

The lack of healthcare professionals and health facilities is one of the biggest challenges facing African healthcare, and the problem is especially acute in rural areas, since 90% of healthcare workers live in cities on average.

Since African governments are not appreciably increasing healthcare spend, healthcare resources will be strained to meet the demand in the foreseeable future.

An unwelcome knock-on effect of inadequate primary care is that the few specialist hospitals that do exist are often full of patients with simple ailments, instead of the complex conditions for which those facilities were intended. [readmore]
There is a need for solutions that allow health systems to provide more primary care within the constraints of limited resources while directing patients away from hospitals.

Digital health and portable devices have the potential to do just this. The first way is through diagnosis. In Nigeria, GE has sold portable flip-phone style ultrasound scanners and trained carers in remote villages on how to identify the biggest pregnancy complication risks. They use less power than standard devices and are cheaper and more resilient.

The second way is with digital devices that can enable remote consultations. U.K. startup Babylon created the Babel app in Rwanda, which provides personalized treatment advice and access to doctors to more than 2 million patients.

In South Africa, the mobile messaging platform MomConnect, which has half a million subscribers, provides targeted health promotion messages to pregnant women to improve their health and that of their infants.

Not only can such solutions improve accessibility, they also augment community-based primary care, which as we have already seen, is the best way to improve outcomes at a lower cost. Babel uses village ambassadors to spread the service, so it is an excellent example of this.

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