Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


How the digital healthcare revolution will be realized

The way in which banking and travel have embraced technology has created a "digital first" approach for people across the world. Whether it is booking flights or transferring money, many of us now use the Internet to manage our finances and travel arrangements.

These are just two examples and digital technology has revolutionized many industries that impact our lives. When you compare this to the healthcare industry, you find that the digital revolution has not really happened when it comes to the way people manage their health.

Of course, there is some fantastic technology in healthcare. For example, there has been great progress with electronic medical records in hospitals and with the use of artificial Intelligence (AI) in medical imaging.

It has just not taken off in the same way as it has in other sectors. Why is this? Well the way in which we access healthcare is a big reason. People's medical data is often held in silos. We visit different services for different conditions and the data does not get connected. It's just a very fragmented industry.

This is actually where current technology can help, giving us the opportunity to connect everyone with their complete health record, and connect them to the right clinical expertise. There are three priorities areas to focus on:

  • Engaging people with their own care – everyone should have access to their entire medical record, through smartphone apps that link directly in to systems in hospitals and clinics.

  • Improving interoperability between systems – reducing data fragmentation to unify healthcare data into a single source.

  • Building big data sets – collecting comprehensive medical record data to support new technologies such as AI and IoT.

    Enabling people to genuinely engage with their own care will open up more capacity for a digital health revolution. For example, the management of long-term conditions currently requires face-to-face consultations in clinics or hospitals, for every patient. The development of intelligent algorithms, created collaboratively between the clinicians and data scientists, can change this.

    Many of the routine appointments for these conditions could be managed remotely through smartphones and wearable devices, certainly for patients with good control over their health. This would take pressure off a very busy clinical workforce. Patients would only require face-to-face appointments when their situation becomes more complex.

    This new digital healthcare landscape would also amplify the voice of expert clinical staff globally. Supporting doctors and nurses with data-driven AI means access to world-class decision support at the point of care, almost anywhere in the world.

    It would also function as a safety net against fatigue, bias and medical error. In areas with a skilled labor shortage, the technology can "upskill" the existing workforce to provide the best care available. This shouldn't distract from ongoing education efforts to improve clinical provision worldwide, but it's a parallel opportunity that we can't afford to miss.

    There are other important differences between healthcare and other industries. The complexity of the field and the data underpinning it are magnitudes greater than the travel or banking sectors. In healthcare, we also can't afford to make any mistakes. Lives depend on this technology. We have to be aware of these issues, get the right people working in the field, and make sure our focus remains on high-quality science.

    Technology is certainly not a panacea to solve all the problems of global healthcare delivery. However, by making citizens more engaged, ensuring continuity of care, and harnessing the power of big data, we can improve the experience of patients and clinicians, and start to get better healthcare outcomes around the world.

    — Frank Hester OBE is the founder and CEO of healthcare technology company TPP.

  • Innovation hub


    SA startup launches Life.file, the 'Dropbox for death'

    A female-founded South African startup and legal technology company has launched a service called Life.file which helps people create, store and share the legal information loved ones will need when they die.


    Hot startup of the month: Nigeria's Gradely

    Nigerian AI-based ed-tech solution Gradely is an adaptive learning app that recommends video lessons, practice questions and on-demand tutors to help students master challenging subject areas.

    More Innovation hub

    Latest video

    More videos

    Guest Perspectives


    Research Bites: The impact of robotics on SA's automobile industry

    By Bianca Ifeoma Chigbu and Fhulu Hastings Nekhwevha

    This article, in collaboration with the African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, explores the collaborative work experience of robotics and human workers in the automobile industry in South Africa.


    Omdia View: June 2021

    By Omdia Analysts

    This month, Omdia's analysts provide context and analysis about Nigeria's Twitter ban, the privatization of Ethio Telecom and Vivendi's fiber plans in Burkina Faso.

    More Guest Perspectives

    Partner perspectives

    All Partner Perspectives

    AfricaCom perspectives


    Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

    Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.


    Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

    GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.


    How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

    Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

    More AfricaCom perspectives

    Upcoming events

    Africa Tech Festival
    November 8-12, 2021
    Cape Town, South Africa
    More Upcoming events

    Flash poll

    All polls

    Upcoming webinars

    Digital Skills Enhancing Human Capital

    As nations begin to look beyond the crisis of COVID-19 to the new future of work, an opportunity to leverage this disruption as a powerful catalyst for positive change exists – one that could reshape the future and provide more accessible, fair, and impactful digital education and training.

    In this webinar, we focus on how digital skills can enhance human capital and help realise the extraordinary potential of intelligent, 4IR-ready African workforces.

    Key topics include:

    • Importance of having more than basic digital skills – upskilling & reskilling
    • Championing access to online educational resources – affordable and reliable internet, electricity and hardware
    • Future career options for industry specific roles: Cloud, AI, industrial IoT, big data analytics
    • Education 4.0: How updating educational curricula is key for growth
    • The importance of progressive, industry-driven educational policy frameworks

    More Webinars

    Sponsored video

    More videos

    Like us on Facebook

    Newsletter Sign Up

    Sign Up