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‘How technology can transform Lagos healthcare delivery’

At a 3-day technical conference e-Health, top experts in medical practice and research agreed that getting smart in the use of data and information technology can bring about precision healthcare delivery in Lagos State, reports Associate Editor ADEKUNLE YUSUF

It was a gathering whose outcome could change everything in the health sector, especially the way healthcare services are henceforth delivered and accessed in Lagos State.

For three days last week, leading local and international experts in medical practice and research gathered at the popular Harbour Point in Victoria Island, Lagos.

The purpose: to fashion out ways Lagos can leverage on data and information technology to improve healthcare delivery in the state, with the state government has indicated its readiness to embrace latest advances in information technology to improve the quality of healthcare delivery to more than 20 million people resident in Nigeria’s economic capital.

With the theme, “Lagos State Smart Health Information Platform (SHIP),” the three-day technical conference was organised by the state Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Among other things, the conference focused on the future of healthcare delivery in Lagos and how the state could use opportunities in technology-driven health service to better the lot of residents.

In attendance were policymakers and seasoned experts in healthcare financing, data collection agencies and medical practitioners and researchers.

Participants at the conference examined the modalities of bringing more hospitals from the primary to secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities onboard the interactive health management information system software, otherwise known as e-health project which has run in 12 state-owned hospitals for some years ago.

While flagging off the conference, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the state government is ready to deploy technology to aid precision medicine as a way to improve healthcare outcomes, adding that his administration believes that rendering faster and smarter healthcare services in all public healthcare facilities will help in expanding the frontiers of quality health and environment services the people want. Besides expressing his administration’s readiness to leverage on technology to improve healthcare delivery in the state, Sanwo-Olu stated that the essence of the e-Health symposium was to enhance the existing e-Health platform to ensure Lagos reaps maximum benefits from embracing modern technology in its determination to deliver quality healthcare services to the people.

Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, explained that the development of e-Health would make possible to have a single source of a solid database, which in turn would make planning more effective.

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“It is important for us to establish and strengthen our health information platform as this will positively impact on our various health care system, health financing through our universal health coverage, biosecurity, biosafety which will also lead to employment opportunities while opening doors for international collaboration,” he said.

While stressing the importance of accurate data in medicine and healthcare delivery, Sanwo-Olu described data as the currency of the future.

He stated further that data generated under the Lagos State One health strategy would enable his government to meet the needs of residents and implement policies that would impact future generations.

The Governor, who noted that e-Health platform is similar to the art of technology recently launched by the state government, enthused that the technology master plan will allow developers to develop a useful system in the state.

He disclosed further that his administration is currently working on a 3000km of fibre optic network, which will enable the access network to all hospitals and public agencies.

Also, while explaining the rationale for organising the conference, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health, said that having a digital health platform will make the system run faster and more efficiently.

Part of the expected benefits of running the health sector on a digital template is that the platform would reduce wastage of scarce resources, improve income generation and, ultimately, prepare the country for the digital age of precision medicine, he stressed.

The Lagos State Smart Health Strategy (SHIP) is aimed at improving efficiency, reducing wastage of resources, improving income generation, driving the bi-economy, creating global virtual health hub, and preparing entry into the digital age of precision medicine, he stressed.

“A digital healthcare system makes room for accurate information, accountability, inventory management and training aid.

We are trying to manage the limited resources allocated to the health sector more efficiently which can only be done through the digital network,” Abayomi said.

Abayomi explained that the 3-day technical conference was meant to strengthen SHIP, which would further improve the state’s healthcare record policy.

He listed the advantages of SHIP to include precision medicine, accelerated human resource development, quality assurance, standardise the exchange of information and optimise operating procedures adding that SHIP is in furtherance of the efforts to ensure efficient and effective healthcare delivery in Lagos State.

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“We are trying to up the game; it is a matter of making what we have to do more and cover more people. So a good and working digital health platform makes the health system run faster, makes it more efficient and removes the delay that may arise from patient referral and transfer between health facilities.”

The commissioner noted that one Lagos-One Health digital strategy, owned by Lagos and partners, will help deliver a road map, global benchmark standards, a business model, a technical working group, timelines to first prototype and income-generating strategies.

The Commissioner lamented that economies across West Africa were victims of a breakout of diseases and lack of good health, stating that thousands of lives would have been saved if there were countermeasures like data.

“We need to change the way we think to leapfrog because it is one thing to acquire technology and another thing is to know how to leverage it. It is also necessary for us to have robust data governance and protection,” he said.

Giving an overview of the health sector, Abayomi said 66 per cent of Lagosians stay in the shanty environment and need to be planned for. “We are experiencing importation of massive population in the state because it is an attraction due to its opportunities, but we have a severe shortage of human resources for facilities and our population is doubling.

We are far away from an international benchmark for health. We still lack infrastructure and inadequate power supply is quickly overwhelmed and no sustainable data,” he said. According to Abayomi, the world is going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the hallmark is data.

“We are converting issues to data and data to discovery,” he said, noting that genetic composition is based on data, which are to generate a discovery on effective healthcare.

For Lagos to improve healthcare delivery outcomes, Andrew S. Nevin, Partner and Chief Economist, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Nigeria, has advised that the state should devote more attention to how to improve on Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), not Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to him, Lagos is doing well with GDP figure, but performing poorly in SDG metrics.

In a presentation as the keynote speaker on economy, human development index and big tech changes for deepening technology and impact healthcare ecosystems in Lagos and across Nigeria, Nevin said SDGs are 17 goals set by the United Nations to be achieved across the globe by year 2030, which are expected to aid the world’s search for real development, put an end to absolute poverty, and achieve eradication of hunger and equal education.

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“The large economic size of Lagos is not applaudable if it does not reflect improved welfare of an average resident of the state, adjudging by the discrepancy between the prevailing level of human development and SDG,” Nevin said.

To turn the tide, the chief economist advised the state government to embrace the use of technology to improve its healthcare delivery system, stressing that the people of the state would be the better for it if.

He added that the challenge is the issue of access to quality healthcare services, but urged the state government to leverage information technology to revamp the health sector because precision medicine is the way to go. It is not possible to deliver healthcare effectively in Lagos without e-Health solution, which would combine the following technologies: blockchain, drones, artificial intelligence, and internet of things, virtual reality, robotics, animated reality, and 3D printing, he said.

PharmAccess Nigeria’s Country Director Njide Ndili said no state can go far in its healthcare delivery without embracing technology.

She added that focusing on e-Health, as Lagos State is doing, is a great strategy to use communication technology to create innovation in accessing healthcare. “Health system should implement technology in commitment towards improving health outcomes.

No matter the support you give to a State, if you are unable to implement technology, you won’t go far,” Ndili said.

As far as Dr. Peju Adenusi of the Lagos State Health Management Agency is concerned, every health institution must have the capacity to capture data. She stressed that the best way to deliver a more efficient healthcare system in Lagos is to go digital.

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