The landscape of healthcare is changing drastically. What used to be a straightforward process of heading to your local healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment is rapidly changing across the globe. Today receiving care has gone fully digital in many countries. This isn’t surprising given how everyone is being advised to stay at home as much as they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and it has resulted in a push for innovations in the industry. The result? A vast improvement in telehealth.
In Europe, there has been a widespread deployment of telehealth services. The pandemic has been an innovation booster for telemedicine in Switzerland, as remote medical consultations are becoming more commonplace. Arthur Germain, the director and founder of the website OneDoc, which specialises in arranging doctors’ appointments online, said demand increased tenfold for his telemedicine service since the pandemic started with over 500 new clients in just two months. This new concept though is really taking off in the US. HP’s feature on telehealth details how in New York, the US epicentre of the pandemic, the NYU Langone went from no telehealth visits to a whopping 5,500 a day in the wake of COVID-19. This shift in patient habits has shown healthcare providers just how much they can do with a video app and camera. Diagnosing and prescribing medication, conducting talk therapy, and helping patients manage their stable chronic conditions are very much possible even when done across a screen.
All these advancements happening in countries around the world are a game changer in healthcare, but the same can’t be said for Nigeria — at least not yet. For one, there appears to be a shortage of doctors. The World Health Organization reveals that Nigeria’s physician-to-patient ratio is four doctors per 10,000 patients and patients often wait hours to be seen. Blueprint points out that since conventional medical solutions do very little to help, there is an urgent need for technology to have a greater role in the Nigerian health sector, especially in regards to telemedicine.
The good news is that telehealth is already in place between 33 regional and university teaching hospitals in Nigeria. Companies like Doctor247 has also launched telehealth platforms to facilitate the delivery of healthcare services to patients at the time that’s most convenient for them. In the hospitals where telemedicine is available, there are mobile medical vans with ICT facilities that interchange between hospitals to render services. University doctors dispense instructions to their counterparts situated in other hospitals on how to do procedures. Because of this, there is even a plan to replace the vans with fixed structures to better assist the exchange of information and expertise in medical education.
At the rate Nigeria is going, it won’t come as a surprise if more innovations surface in the foreseeable future. The thing it needs now is policy, economic and infrastructural support to execute all these innovative plans.