In 2018, a gathering of senior officials at the World Economic Forum met in Tianjin, China, to discuss the role of technology in achieving universal health cover. Kenya was picked out as a country where mobile tech had the potential to help the country “leapfrog” the Western world towards healthcare inclusion – just like it did with mobile money helping drive financial inclusion.
Mobile penetration in Kenya is closing in on 100 per cent, with subscription figures hitting 95 per cent earlier this year. The Communications Authority of Kenya has reported that 86 per cent of the Kenyan population now has access to the Internet. The country is the global leader in share of Internet traffic coming from mobile (overtaking Nigeria in 2017), at 83 per cent, largely driven by rapidly increasing smartphone penetration (currently nearly 30 per cent). There is no doubt that the mobile is significantly changing the way we live and care.
Internet-connected mobiles have improved access to most of what we need in terms of goods, activities and services. In healthcare, this is even more pronounced. Mobiles can be used to transparently identify what care can be accessed and at what price. Patients and medical professionals don’t always need to be in the same location – diagnosis and treatment can increasingly be delivered virtually.
Across industries, mobiles are increasing customer engagement in programmes, platforms and products. They form a direct line of contact between an organisation and an individual. Outreach can be personalised, based on preferences and secure data collection. This has been transformative – mobiles can reduce complexity in disease and medication management. They can also deliver proactive wellness programmes.
New business models
Mobile data from sensors and devices is opening new opportunities in data management and value-creation. For enterprises, this can mean big data services and for the individual, it can mean apps to track relevant personal information.
All the big global technology ‘majors’ have chased the idea of personal health records to help individuals make sense of and effectively use the increasing amounts of information being collected from healthcare institutions and wearable devices connected to mobile phones.
The advent of big data has opened the door for fraud management systems. Not only can data be collected in real-time, but it can also be cross-referenced with other data sources. For example, location data can be correlated with financial transactions. The potential in healthcare is enormous.
Health insurance penetration across sub-Saharan Africa has remained low, leading to people being forced into poverty through high out of pocket healthcare expenditure. More must be done to offer trusted and transparent products, at a price that individuals can afford. Fraud in the healthcare system must be resolved in order to do this. The mobile offers the ability to be able to tackle this through cross-referencing with data sources and validation to prevent fraud.
Information transparency is the key to improving quality. News, reviews and transparent marketplaces, have highlighted quality issues, moved customer sentiment and even resulted in litigation and regulation. Checklists and access to specialist information have changed the way services are delivered.
In healthcare, this transformation is of vital importance to patients. Mobiles can help patients find out where they can access quality services. They can help with service safety, such as helping with pill reminders, remote monitoring and sending alerts to healthcare providers. Mobiles are giving a new cadre of healthcare professionals help at the simplest level on treating their patients, but also giving them access to information on some of the most complex healthcare issues.