How digital growth could reshape the health sector

Thursday, January 26th, 2023 02:00 | By

Organizational priorities are shifting as we move away from the pandemic response and into the recovery and rebuilding phase. Despite unprecedented challenges, the healthcare sector has seen growth and improvements in service delivery, some of which were influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, it is expected that evolution will continue as the healthcare industry, like many others, strives to become more agile and responsive to changing consumer needs. The increasing role of technology in healthcare is one of the key trends to look out for in 2023.

As in many other industries, the importance of technology in healthcare is growing, with solutions such as cloud systems, artificial intelligence, improved network infrastructure, and the proliferation of mobile devices being used at various points in healthcare.

In 2023, we expect to see more healthcare providers adopting telemedicine and leveraging it to provide more immediate access to patients, while also implementing controls to increase efficiency in follow-up and overall service delivery. As healthcare providers strive to be future-ready, they will increasingly digitise their systems as part of the digital transformation journey. As they strive to reach more patients, hospitals will strengthen their capacity to source, process, store, and analyse data this year.

This will be evident from the digitisation of patient files to allow for easier access regardless of location, all the way to information sharing between healthcare providers and their stakeholders, such as insurance providers. With digital transformation on the horizon, cyber security will become a top priority across the industry. Healthcare providers are constantly dealing with privileged and sensitive information; data leaks at any point could be disastrous. The recently enacted Data Protection Act has already set the stage for more stringent control of data and healthcare providers will need to comply.

Third, 2023 is expected to see an increase in investment in mental health. Kenya has a high prevalence of mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health, one in every four people has a mental health problem. The need to push for the mainstreaming of mental health and mental healthcare may have become most apparent in 2020, when a taskforce appointed by the ministry recommended that mental health be declared a national emergency. This year, we anticipate increased public and private sector investment in addressing mental health challenges, as well as increased public participation as more people open up and seek help.

As workplaces continue to recover from the pandemic, employee welfare will become increasingly important throughout the year. Hospitals were among the hardest hit as patient numbers increased and the risks associated with an airborne pandemic put a strain on healthcare workers. Over the last two years, there have been several strikes by healthcare workers demanding better working conditions and higher pay.

This year, there is likely to be an increase in demand for medical professionals as available talent is poached to foreign countries or retires. Attracting and retaining top talent will be critical for healthcare providers, and worker welfare will take precedence.

There will be many other interesting developments in healthcare, including the rollout of Universal Health Coverage under the new administration. The President has already promised reforms in the way healthcare is funded and delivered, and it will be interesting to see how things progress.  At Gertrude’s Hospital, we recognised the critical role that technology can play in bridging the physician-patient divide and launched Daktari Smart, a telemedicine platform, in 2021. The platform expands physicians’ reach and capacity, allowing them to reach patients who might not be able to travel to a hospital.

— The writer is a paediatrician and Head of Clinical Services, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital

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