Many hospitals across Nigeria and across the continent are still paper-based. It is therefore not surprising that digital health entrepreneurs in the respective countries are developing tools aimed at digitizing health records.
The University College Hospital is Nigeria’s premier teaching hospital. When a patient visits the general outpatient ward department (GOPD) for the first time, a nurse fills several forms, several preliminary investigations are carried out, a new file is ‘opened’ for the patient, and, depending on the nature of the condition that got the patient to the hospital in the first place, he or she is assigned to a doctor who in turn would review and record his or her assessment in the patient’s case note.
The patient could be asked to go and carry out some investigations – especially radiology and lab tests, and these are also written on colour-coded forms. For a naïve or illiterate patient who can’t remember or discern the form meant for x-ray from that for stool analysis, confusion could arise. Furthermore, because of the nature of papers, results could get missing – or get into the wrong hands.
This is a familiar situation at hospitals across Nigeria and across the continent where the healthcare systems are still paper-based. It is therefore not surprising that digital health entrepreneurs in the respective countries are developing tools aimed at digitizing health records – focusing on one section at a time.
Digitizing healthcare in Africa
For Nigeria, one such is Wella Health, which nuviun has previously covered here. The platform allows patients to take their health records with them anywhere – on a smartphone or on the computer. They can also track their doctor appointments and other types of records.
In South Africa, CenHealth is allowing South Africans and other users of the healthcare system, to own a complete digital copy of their health and wellness information; they can also gather, manage and securely store their health information—which could be easily accessed anywhere and anytime. CenHealth describes itself as South Africa’s digital health solution with the most advanced public health record.
“We believe information is power... Our tools provide an accessible, easy to use platform, which enables to create, track and take control of health information,” the startup said, adding it is passionate about motivating users to be actively involved in their health by making better choices and participating actively in their wellbeing.
InstaHealth is a similar health record-focused African digital health startup. Initially launched as M-Tambula, the platform has been rebranded to reposition itself as a pan-African product that is deployed beyond Uganda. The mobile app allows its users to instantly access health info via smartphones. It also works on feature phones.
To ensure widespread use, the developers built it on simple technology that more people – not just those that use high-end smartphones – can use.
In Ivory Coast, Yite is providing a cost-effective, modern and mobile-based solution to manage operations in hospitals in the region and other developing nations that are still using ‘ancient’ methods for record-keeping.
"Yite was designed from the ground specifically taking into consideration the environment of developing nations – poor internet access but huge mobile penetration, by including features such as an offline mode and direct SMS communication between doctors and patients,” the founder, Regia Bamba said.
Since the platform is cloud-based, he said stored data cannot get lost.
“The data is also securely exchanged between servers and clients using an encrypted SSL connection for privacy,” he said.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.