Healthcare in Nigeria: The Promises of Digital Transformation

Nigeria needs a healthy workforce to sustain a healthy economy. Our population has doubled in the last 30 years to 218 million people (2022 estimates) and projected to hit 440million by the year 2050 (in 28 years’ time). The current and future healthcare needs are indeed diverse and enormous, and far beyond the capacity of the current health ecosystem. To avert a system collapse in the years ahead, the country must begin to build a resilient health system that is functional, dependable, affordable, and accessible to Nigerians irrespective of their social status, income level or geographical location. Stakeholders continue to seek immediate and long-term solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the sector, including the possibilities digital healthcare offer, as the world becomes exponentially digitised.

For digital healthcare to thrive, there must be institutional, infrastructural and policy support that will facilitate the emergence of new business models in health care delivery. There must be targeted investments –in digital infrastructure, in governance, in institutional capacity, in people and processes, and in ecosystem enablers. For Nigeria, here are some must-haves to begin with to enable digital healthcare:

1. A robust digital healthcare policy to provide direction to healthcare providers, patients, investors, regulators, and other ecosystem stakeholder groups.

2. Hybrid healthcare architecture given the prevalent digital divide and weak infrastructure.

3. Digital training in medical universities and teaching hospitals to develop healthcare workers for the digital age.

4. Data collection, protection, analysis, and use are crucial; without which it will be impossible to operationalise any system-wide digital interventions.

5. Broadband Internet is an enabler that we must get right. 5G remains a game changer for digital healthcare interventions.

6. Increased health-tech investments to deliver local solutions to perennial frictions in the sector.

7. Digital tech enablement for research, disease monitoring and public health education.

8. Health insurance must be made to work. Universal health coverage is the backbone of modern healthcare delivery.

9. Digital identity is an asset to healthcare, and at the heart of the future of digital care.