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Nigeria: Using Technology to Improve Healthcare

Technology is being employed all over the world to improve healthcare. In Nigeria, technology is being hailed as the answer to poor healthcare by experts. The Future of Health Summit was held by Philips Africa and Forbes Africa, designed to provide an event to discuss Nigerian and African investment in healthcare technology. A survey recently carried out by Royal Philips revealed that the expectations Nigerians hold of their healthcare system don’t line up with the care that they receive. Only 36 percent of Nigerians think that their healthcare needs are met by the current system, but experts at the Future of Health Summit think that technology can change that.

In particular, preventative care was highlighted as a major area that needs focus. Chief Executive Officer of Philips Africa, Jasper Westerink, said that a more sustainable healthcare system could be created with more work and investment put into preventative care. He said that “The results also reinforce the need for the national government to invest a significant percentage of its healthcare budget towards medical research, preventive care, acute care and general health education.”

Philips wants to raise awareness of how lifestyle factors can influence health. Using technology, they can encourage healthier lifestyle habits. Philips manufactures both hospital-grade technology and gadgets that can be used in the home, from smart toothbrushes to air filters.

Speaking to The Guardian, one of the issues that Westerink has highlighted is the importance of early detection. Screening for health problems using imaging solutions and early detection methods helps to prevent and manage illnesses and other issues. He has suggested that telehealth and remote health could play an important role, making health services more accessible to a wider range of people. This can be used in combination with artificial intelligence, which helps to reduce the need for medical professionals being present everywhere. He says that even people who aren’t medically trained can be taught to carry out scans and perform other tasks, and full-sized medical equipment isn’t necessary to do these things.

Speaking at the Future of Healthcare Summit, Westerink said, “We believe that sustainable healthcare development requires a system-wide approach, combining technology, capacity-building including training, service and maintenance, as well as long-term financing. To that end, we aim to expand access to quality and affordable healthcare across the country and compliment significant efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s growing health sector.”

Another issue raised at the event included the problem of brain drain from African countries – Nigeria’s smart, educated professionals in not just medicine but science, technology and other areas are choosing to find work elsewhere. One of the answers to this could lie in technology. Offering better access to technology, along with higher wages, better benefits and improved working environments could encourage Nigeria’s smartest to stay, instead of choosing to build their lives overseas.

Clare Omatseye, President of Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, said that “With technology being a major driver of change, especially today when patients are digitally empowered, healthcare solutions must be incorporated into everyday innovations and meet patients at their point of need.”

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