Digital drives healthcare costs down
Digital intervention can be instrumental in both lowering the cost of healthcare and addressing accessibility issues.
So says Valter Ad~ao, leader of Deloitte Digital in Africa and firm-wide healthcare and life sciences industry leader for Deloitte in Southern Africa.
The global mobile health (mHealth) market is predicted to reach $24 billion by 2018, from $4.5 billion in 2013, according to GSMA and PwC's 2012 study, "Touching lives through mobile health assessment of the global market opportunity."
Digital intervention in the form of wearable monitoring devices could drastically reduce treatment costs by helping detect health conditions early, or providing more instantaneous evaluation of the efficacy of prescribed treatments for existing conditions, says Ad~ao.
There is definite room for improvement in the treatment monitoring of common health conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, he adds.
Remote monitoring devices and programmes could also streamline healthcare access in under-resourced communities by reducing the amount and frequency of patients visiting healthcare facilities for regular check-ups when their conditions can be effectively observed using mobile technology, Ad~ao continues.
Disease surveillance, medicine supply systems, medicine stock management and pharmaceutical management are particularly weak in African countries, according to a United Nations Foundation report, "Five Years of Mobilising for Health Impact".
Digital data collection and analytics tools could greatly improve resource management, says Ad~ao.
While connectivity has traditionally been a barrier to access for digital solutions in Africa, "connectivity is improving rapidly," he says, and digital solutions do not necessarily have to be rolled out to all patients or even at patient level to make a substantial impact in under-resourced areas, he goes on.
Digital communication technologies could help doctors and nurses overcome staffing or skills shortages through solutions such as remote training or remote guidance in specific procedures, Ad~ao says. Access to digital resources and information could assist them in upskilling, he adds.
South Africa is the largest healthcare market in sub-Saharan Africa, and has the highest level of mHealth deployment, according to Deloitte's 2014 report, "The mHealth opportunity in sub-Sahara Africa."
Ad~ao presented at the inaugural Deloitte Digital Health Captains of Industry event in Johannesburg on Tuesday.