Royal Philips & Forbes’ seminar reveals challenges, optimism in Nigerian Healthcare system

May 29th, 2018

Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology, recently released findings from a survey, aimed to understand what the ‘Future of Health’ might look like in Nigeria and any associated challenges, this was subsequently capped with a conference on the “State of Healthcare System in Nigeria” under the auspices of Philips and Forbes at Ikoyi, Lagos recently. CYRIACUS NNAJI reports.

According to the Data over 500 Nigerians interviewed, shows that 52% trust the healthcare system, although only 36% feel that their healthcare needs are being met. This highlights a clear discrepancy between the expectations of Nigerians and the reality of the healthcare system, indicating inefficiencies and ample room for growth.

Findings reveal that with more than half of Nigerians leaning on hospital facilities for the most minor of ailments, there is a clear need for improved access to primary care practitioners, local health facilities, tracking health indicators and a wider availability of information about health, nutrition and fitness. This approach is further reinforced by the fact that majority (65%) of Nigerians believe improved access to health facilities would make them more effective in managing their health, thus alleviating pressure on the healthcare system.

In his keynote address, healthcare futurist, Michael Jackson, spoke about the recipe for change which includes computing, communications, connectivity, amongst others. He also illustrated the changing face of technology and how this has impacted the world and the day-to-day life of its people

He spoke about the evolution of business which now focuses more on skills, knowledge, decentralisation, partnerships and digital engagement and the fast pace of technological development, encouraging healthcare professionals to emulate this progression in rolling out digital healthcare solutions for Nigeria and Africa.

Furthermore, he gave examples of digital, connected technologies being developed in Africa and delivering healthcare solutions to Africans today; for example, Philips’ community life centres using solar power in Kenya. He said technology can help tackle challenges right here in Nigeria such as the inequitable ratio of 1 MD: 25000 patients and the language gap across the 500 dialects spoken here, encouraging healthcare professionals to adopt this tactic: simplify, smarten-up, specialize.

During a Panel session which dwelt on the Role of technology in the transformation of healthcare in Nigeria, Jasper Westerink CEO, Philips Africa said aside from the provision of important healthcare solutions through technology, Philips is committed to educating and creating awareness towards the reduction of risk factors associated with unhealthy lifestyles. The provision of technologies that enable a healthy lifestyle also remains a key priority for Philips Africa

He also touched on specific examples of healthcare product innovations from Philips, such as handheld probes and the importance of training opportunities for non-healthcare professional to operate these, adding that having a wide spectrum of healthcare attendants embedded in communities would go a long way to fix issues with the overburdened primary healthcare systems. Access to technologies that capture early diagnosis is another way to alleviate this burden, he said

Westerink emphasised the need for collaborations, partnerships and the provision of fast paced healthcare technologies towards make positive impact on lives. He said, challenges exist but so do opportunities to bring together resources and partnerships in order to leapfrog sustainable healthcare in communities. He cited the private sector, government and Nigeria’s young and vibrant population as key stakeholders to bring to the table.

He ended the session by reiterating the importance of education, prevention, a focus on acute challenges and harnessing the resources of stakeholders who want to make a change in Nigeria’s healthcare sector. He said that, in principle you can solve Nigeria’s healthcare challenges with the structures in place

Dr. Jide Idris, Commissioner of Health, Lagos State, on his part the Commissioner touched on the importance of training to ensure healthcare professionals are well equipped, applied technologies, health promotion and preventative solutions. He also spoke about the importance of communication and behavioural change initiatives in order to leapfrog from education to ensuring that technologies are well understood and applies in communities

Idris discussed initiatives that have been put in place by Lagos State to incentivise private sector participation. He said that, the State government is committed to creating platforms to stimulate private sector participation in healthcare and is partnering healthcare equipment manufacturers to lease to private healthcare providers amongst other examples.

He mentioned a public private partnership (PPP) law in the State aimed towards stimulating and create an enabling environment and the government’s commitment to developing key infrastructure

Clare Omatseye, President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria

Ms. Omatseye mentioned that, with technology being a major driver of change, especially today when patients are digitally and empowered, healthcare solutions must be incorporated into everyday innovations and meet patients where they are

She added that, while Nigeria has as many skilled consultants as countries such as the USA and the UK, due to brain-drain, there’s a need to close the digital divide so consultancy services can be delivered seamlessly across borders

Omatseye mentioned some challenges facing the healthcare sector including financing and access to capital as well as the importance of collaboration with sectors outside healthcare in order to deliver viable solutions

Focusing on the issue of brain-drain, she mentioned some of the top reasons for this including remuneration, access to technologies and better working environments; all of which she said can be fixed with the right level of commitment and investment

She also talked about Nigeria’s vibrant private healthcare sector which is unfortunately fragmented due to gaps in solutions. She said it’s important for government to partner the private sector and bring in their passion in order to achieve the ideal formula for success in healthcare delivery

She ended by decrying the phenomenon of patients getting more impoverished when they get sick and the need for alternative and cost effective means so access to quality healthcare through PPP is available to all. She encouraged government to provide a pool of funds towards this, to advocate for mandatory universal healthcare and to spend more time on prevention rather than cures

Martins Ifijeh, Head, Health Desk, This Day Newspaper, talked extensively about the need for prioritisation by government of more budget allocation to healthcare provision in Nigeria

He said, there’s more the Nigerian government can do with regards to universal health coverage, stating that it has to be constitutionally mandated in order to achieve desired results.

He also said that, the issue of universal healthcare should be highlighted more in Nigeria’s political discourse and also emphasised the need for collaboration by stating that government should bring stakeholders to the table

Initially, Kunle Elebute (KPMG Africa) touched on the importance of partnerships towards ensuring equitable healthcare. He focused on the importance of harnessing capacity in the private healthcare sector to fill gaps in the public sector

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