The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently revealed new ways that digital technology can be used to improve human health through computers and mobile phones.
“Harnessing the power of digital technologies is essential for achieving universal health coverage,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Ultimately, digital technologies are not ends in themselves; they are vital tools to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.”
In order to buttress the significance of digital media in people’s daily lives, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO, said with digital intervention, health technicians can send reminders to pregnant women to attend antenatal care appointments and having children return for vaccinations.
Other digital approaches reviewed include decision support tools to guide health workers as they provide care and also enabling individuals and health workers to communicate and consult on health issues from across different locations, Swaminathan explained.
She added: “If digital technologies are to be sustained and integrated into health systems, they must be able to demonstrate long-term improvements over the traditional ways of delivering health services”.
The scientists noted that digital technologies enable health workers to communicate more efficiently on the status of commodity stocks and gaps. However, notification alone is not enough to improve commodity management; health systems also must respond and take action in a timely manner for replenishing needed commodities.
Experts believe that with nearly 4.7 billion cell phone users around the world, using such devices as a way to aid health is surely a step toward achieving global wellness.
As mHealth Alliance: global health professionals explained: “The ubiquity of mobile devices in the developed or developing world presents the opportunity to improve health outcomes through the delivery of innovative medical and health services with information and communication technologies to the farthest reaches of the globe.”
Digital health is not a silver bullet,” said Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s chief information officer. “WHO is working to make sure it’s used as effectively as possible. This means ensuring that it adds value to the health workers and individuals using these technologies, takes into account the infrastructural limitations, and that there is proper coordination.”
Explaining more on digital health, innovations in healthcare have to be supported by data generated from research, Mariano added.
However research on the impact of digital technology on healthcare in Nigeria and a number of african countries have only received minimal attention.
According to a new Disrupt Africa report, 115 medical-related startups operating in 20 African countries have attracted over $19 million worth of investment, with countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya leading the scene. The rise in digital health startups in Nigeria can be owed to factors such as a big market with a population of over 180 million people placing a demand on healthcare services in the country.