Tech innovations drastically changing healthcare practices

Monday, February 1st, 2021 00:00 |
James Nyakera demonstrates how his automatic hand washing machine works at Kairo shopping centre, Murang’a. It is one of the innovations by Kenyans. Photo/PD/Wangari Njuguna

Nixon Shigoli 

Health care is undergoing a digital transformation globally, offering innovative ways of taming killer diseases like diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer among others.  

Globally, a rising number of young people are succumbing to these ailments, once thought to afflict only the rich and elderly.

14 million people aged between 30 and 70 die worldwide every year, from these diseases.  

Data shows cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes combined account for 17 per cent of total deaths in Kenya annually.

Non-communicable diseases account for 50 per cent and 40 per cent of hospital admissions and deaths respectively.  

Fortunately, emerging digital innovations are enabling new approaches to treating such ailments and most crucially, improving patient outcomes and reducing cost of treatment. 

Indeed, technological innovation is profoundly influencing health care in many ways.

To start with, technology has democratised information. A study in the US revealed 47 per cent of patients seeking medical information online are researching about doctors; 38 per cent about hospitals and 77 per cent want to book a doctor’s appointment. 

The reality, is that health-related information is now available at the touch of a screen. Telemedicine facilitates remote consultation, diagnosis and treatment.   

Digital apps

With a smartphone, for instance, a diabetes patient living in a remote area is able to consult their physician over a live video link.

They could even go ahead and order prescription to be delivered to their doorstep through a digital app. 

But for digital technology to have the desired impact, there has to be a shift from a curative to preventive approach to health care.

Technology is best leveraged to influence behavior change leading to a healthier lifestyle, a medically proven factor in preventing and managing most chronic illnesses. 

Digital health also creates opportunities for patient awareness and education.

Social media and popular messaging apps make it easier to disseminate information to a mass audience. Beware, that misinformation is rife in such platforms. 

In terms of promoting healthier lifestyles, numerous wearable devices, allow users to monitor vital health indicators like heart rate while tracking progress with goals like quitting smoking and alcohol.

Digital apps like MediSafe help patients adhere to medication thus averting relapse. 

Ground-breaking innovations like Big Data analytics are transforming management of patient information.   

Additionally, paperless processes improve administrative efficiency especially medical claims processing, further minimising pain points for the patient.

Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technologies minimise the risk of human error leading to better diagnosis and treatment. 

Using sophisticated pattern recognition, it is now possible to develop personalised therapies for protracted chronic conditions.

Innovation expedites drug development cycles reducing the time it takes vital drugs to reach the market. 

In summary, digital transformation of health care is a potent weapon in prevention and diagnosis of chronic diseases, saving lives and reducing the financial burden on families and the economy.  — The writer is the Managing Director, AAR Insurance Kenya — [email protected]

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