By Henry Uche
Following the eruption of Covid-19 pandemic and its severe effects on humanity, medical experts have advocated the deployment of technology to accelerate the impact and scale of African health-tech innovators as well as access to Medical consumables by citizens even as the need for intake surge at this critical time.
Discussing the modalities, health care consulting Firm, Salient Advisory in a report called on stakeholders in the health care sector to accelerate the impact and scale of African health-tech innovators.
They made this known during a Webinar organized in collaboration with Nigeria Health Watch with the themed: “Innovation in Health Product Distribution – Key Trends And Opportunities In Nigeria.”
At the discourse, there was findings from a recently released report on Innovations in Health Product Distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was noted that research was conducted in four African countries including Nigeria, bringing to light health tech startups that are using technology to improve the distribution of health products and information.
It was affirmed that supply chains and global logistics were severely disrupted, with severe restrictions placed on trade and travel due to the global pandemic. This they said led to challenges in access to essential healthcare products like diagnostics and therapeutics which impacted the logistics of products like medicines and other medicine consumables inflows and outflows of information.
Director, Salient Advisory, Remi Adeseun, said, “Medicines play a vital role in health systems and most Nigeria patients believe that their care is incomplete unless there are drugs accompanied with it.”
For Yomi Kazeem, a senior consultant at the Advisory, in his presentation highlighted some key findings from the report said investors, governments, donors and other public health agencies often struggle to understand the key trends and opportunities to engage and advance public health goals, in relation to the commercial innovators ecosystem.
He added that the research scope in the report included companies providing solutions for inventory management, B2B marketplaces for product ordering and innovators offering patient engagement services, as well as e-pharmacies and e-commerce operators.
Some of the emerging trends from the report included: Innovators were expanding their service offerings to provide end-to-end patient journeys, and digitally enabled D2C distribution players were adding channels for telemedicine consultations, while retail pharmacy outlets were adding digitally -enabled distribution operations.
The report also highlighted that as with most ecosystems, health tech innovators faced challenges; key among them was funding. Another major challenge highlighted revolves around the regulatory environment that currently exists, particularly for telemedicine and e-pharmacy businesses.
It stated that between 2018 and 2021, there has been a significant increase in the number of innovators operating in the ecosystem of health product distribution. This was a positive development and the webinar provided an opportunity for three selected innovators to share their key insights about their innovations.
The Founder, WellaHealth, Dr Ikpeme Neto, explained how his organisation offers micro insurance products that cover the common health care challenges that people face, offering a basic healthcare plan for malaria that gives people access to malaria testing and treatment. He stated, “WellaHealth provides access to affordable healthcare…”
On his part, the Founder, Whispa Health, Morenike Fajemisin, explained how an ‘App’ she developed enabled users to have private chats with doctors about any aspect of their intimate health. “People can order sexual health products like HIV tests, condoms and have them delivered to homes or offices in plain packaging to disguise what is inside. Whispa addresses access to sexual and reproductive health information.”
Similarly, Michael Moreland, Founder Shelf Life, explained how his parent company – Field, had launched Shelf Life as a service that allows pharmacies to sign up in a bid to outsource their supply chain. Shelf Life supports in the planning, fulfilment and finance of the stock so that pharmacies can focus on sales. According to him, “I have been working in Nigeria with government since 2011 and there has been great openness to innovation.”
The platform was an opportunity for disruptive ideas to be brought to the forefront, showcasing health tech startups that are using technology to improve the distribution of health products to patients, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the important roles health tech innovators can play, supporting the public health response and contributing in the fight against the pandemic. This was the general consensus at the webinar, creating the awareness and urgency to accelerate and provide the necessary enabling environment for African health-tech innovators in the supply chain to scale up health care services.
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