5 Digital Health Innovations That Are Very Likely to Succeed in Africa


Hamza Asumah, MD

Africa stands out as the continent with the world’s youngest population. The Lancet stated in 2020 that Sub-Saharan Africa has embraced a slew of digital health innovations to help it achieve Universal Health Coverage, particularly in reaching rural and underserved communities.

From drones delivering life-saving medical supplies in Rwanda to smartphone authentication services against counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Nigeria to robotics-powered ATM drug pharmacies in South Africa, digital health technologies show great promise for improving health care delivery on the continent.

Photo by Omnia Health

According to futurecenter.org, with Africa’s vast population bearing the world’s highest disease incidence and significant healthcare shortages, the challenge and opportunity is to increase the use of digital health solutions to benefit local populations while also increasing real-world evidence and data related to diverse populations for global therapy developments.

Nonetheless, given the large demands in this industry, developing a digital health idea is quite straightforward. However, the issue emerges when your innovation is incapable of generating revenue. This is the primary reason why the vast majority of them never get beyond the concept stage. No investor or institution, for-profit or not-for-profit, will support a proposal that does not have a clear financial and long-term financial plan. As a result, you must be exceedingly analytical while forming your opinions in this area.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the use of digital health to transform healthcare systems remains limited due to unsustainable design, limited donor funding, lack of participation by governments in the planning and implementation of pilots, and the very real challenges of fragile healthcare and digital ecosystems as described in the LSE department of health policy event.

Photo by UNC

There are some tips for digital health breakthroughs that will put you in a good position to generate money and finally thrive. These meet a vital need for both patients and healthcare providers, resulting in increased value on both sides.

Firstly, Innovations aimed at bridging the gap between the patient and the healthcare professional. In contrast to affluent nations, the African continent’s reality is that a higher number of healthcare providers do not have an internet presence. Traditional search engines, such as Google, are limited in their efficacy since they only take up what is available online.

This might make healthcare practitioners “invincible” in the eyes of their patients/customers. Any innovation that can bridge the relatively large distance between these two stakeholders in healthcare has a big potential to produce value for both the healthcare providers (more clients and money) and the patients (convenience), which I am confident both users will be happy to pay a charge for.

Secondly, Telehealth has become a widely recognized method of getting medical treatment as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. This clientele includes those who have medical or surgical conditions that make them susceptible to severe disease from covid 19 and other infections, as well as the business executive who simply does not have the time to leave his or her office to refill her diabetes, hypertension, or any other non-emergency medical need. Because of their value and convenience, such platforms will be highly important in this area.

Photo by istock

Thirdly, hospital patient management systems are being used by an increasing number of healthcare providers. The accessible ones have limitations in that they are extremely strong in some areas (e.g., operations/administrative/clinical) and quite shaky in others. It’s only natural for everyone who creates a system like this to say that theirs is the most thorough, but I have yet to see one from the user’s point of view.

The missing component is that developers fail to notice and include all stakeholders who must contribute to the numerous components of the program that make it complete. If you engage an accountant and an IT specialist to create hospital software, you will almost likely end up with a product that is a wonderful financial tool for the healthcare provider but a bad therapeutic one.

Photo by Existek

Fourthly, medical tourism is gaining in popularity throughout Africa. There is an influx of well-established healthcare institutions from across the world reaching out to the African continent to find and partner with institutions that will serve as referral points for patients who require advanced treatment options that are not available in Africa.

There is a potential gap here; many foreign hospitals cannot associate with too many African hospitals, especially if they do not already have an established relationship. Similarly, many people have the financial wherewithal to access these new healthcare treatments but have no clue where to go for information and appropriate referrals.

Any innovation that allows these foreign advanced hospitals to establish a presence on the continent and makes it easy for any patient anywhere on the continent to find the services they need without having to go through a third party will be a very profitable resource for the innovator, the foreign healthcare provider, and the patient who requires these advanced healthcare options. This can be in the form of a mobile application that brings all these players together on one platform.

Lastly, virtual pharmacies are becoming a significant industry for many people all over the world. There are pharmacies all throughout Africa, but the lack of an online presence limits the quantity of information available to patients. People go from one pharmacy to the next in search of medication. Finding a pharmacy that has this medication in stock might take anywhere from hours to days.

What if there was a platform that transformed this information from local pharmacies to an internet platform and then turned physical searches to virtual searches, which are more convenient given the delivery system connected with them? This enables any consumer to sit in the comfort of their own home and discover the medication they desire.

Photo by primecaretexas

As practical and profitable as these concepts appear to be, it is important to recognize that turning them into actual products is a significantly more difficult task. Form a TEAM of individuals who will be useful in product development, obtaining funds to launch and manage the product, a marketing team, and a risk assessment team. You’ll have a better chance of getting your product into the hands of your customers this way.

We live in a technological era with a high demand for convenience through various applications. It is important to keep this in mind when conceptualizing your ideas. Which of these do you find most feasible? What other viable e health ideas do you think will succeed on the African continent? Please leave a comment


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