IT News Africa recently sat down with Valter Adao, the lead Director/Partner at Deloitte Digital Africa and Innovation leader for Deloitte, to speak about the latest trends in Healthcare innovation on the African continent.
Valter is also the firm wide Healthcare and Life Sciences industry leader for Deloitte in Africa and has held senior leadership positions in this sector. Healthcare innovation is one of Valter’s passions and his expertise in this field is solidified by the various speaking positions he has held at Healthcare conference such as the recent 2017 Healthcare Innovation Summit.
IT News Africa spoke to Valter about the biggest trends in the industry, the benefits to come from these trends, how innovation will help people in the rural areas of Africa, the role of government and the private sector and the impact of conferences such as the Healthcare Innovation Summit.
1) In your opinion what are some of the biggest trends in healthcare innovation?
Look healthcare innovation has a number of avenues which are currently very active. There is the traditional developing of new molecules, life-saving drugs etc… but the interesting ones are around the innovations which are challenging the traditional construct of healthcare, the healthcare business models, how we access healthcare and the affordability of it.
There are also some interesting technologies that are augmenting healthcare provisions. So very smart technologies that help doctors diagnose more accurately from a cognitive analytics perspective, interpretation of visuals to assist in diagnoses of disease, surgical robots, which are early in development, but could have a significant impact on how we look after people. Then the leveraging of Artificial Intelligence and Analytics to assist in the diagnostic of conditions with out the presence of a healthcare professional.
There is a lot of innovation taking place, but those last few I mentioned are the latest and probably most disruptive of all the trends.
2) What are the benefits of these trends?
The main benefit is perhaps easier accessibility and increased affordability of healthcare. If you can get access through a digital platform it is easier, you don’t have to get to a clinic or doctor, and it is also a lot cheaper. The additional trend I suppose would be around the improved accuracy of diagnoses and also improved outcomes as a result of leveraging these technologies. Perhaps what we would also see is instead of keeping patients for monitoring in an expensive brick and mortar setting they could do exactly the same in their homes through remote technologies. Innovation will lead to cheaper and more accessible healthcare in Africa.
3) From an African perspective, how important will it be to leverage these innovations, particularly in rural areas where there are access issues?
I think it is a game changer, just like we saw cell phones bridge the gap in communications we are going to see these technologies a similar sort of gap on the African continent. The significance of this is that simple technology like a cell phone has probably contributed the most to the elimination of poverty on the continent. If we take that same kind of thinking to technologies that are aiding and augmenting healthcare we will allow people who currently can’t afford and don’t have access to healthcare to finally have access.
4) Are African governments open to adopting these innovations?
There is an openness to talk about these innovations. I would, however, love to see the adoption become quicker. Perhaps there are two levers we need to pull. Number one, the regulations are not written for these new disruptive technologies, our regulations are dated and are not suited for the natural adoption of these technologies.
Secondly, I would like to see more collaboration and dialogue between government and the private sector. Innovation is not just about the technology but also the mindset. It is an unreasonable burden we place on the government to have to figure out the problem that needs to be solved, the technology which is needed to solve the problem, fund it, implement it and make sure it gets used properly.
The role of government should change to say let’s adopt a concept of open innovation. Their role would then be to create a platform on which everyone can innovate to solve that societies problem. Entrepreneurs, micro-enterprise or a global business could participate on that platform to solve the issues. Governments would then need to ensure that there is innovation taking place around these regulations that aid innovations and then aid in monitoring that these innovations and solutions are achieving the required goals within the tight price constraints.
5) How long do you think it will take for these innovations to have a real-world impact in Africa?
It really comes down to political and business will. The impact is immediate, there are solutions that could be deployed immediately that have been sidelined or been slow to adopt because we are not creating the right platform to take these innovations to market. Using drones for delivering medicine in rural areas, for example, the impact could be felt immediately. The technology is there, there are people who want to invest in these sectors. We just have to innovate around the regulations that are currently hindering the process around the adoption and the regulations which are currently protecting the old business models and business practices that are currently in those sectors.
6) How important are events such as the Healthcare Innovation Summit in advancing developments in the African healthcare industry?
I think these summits are important. It is important because it gets the conversation going, but more importantly, conversations that challenge one another and when we challenge one another we do so with an open mindset that perhaps I don’t have all the answers but I certainly need to listen to something that challenges the paradigm which I have. So the role of the Healthcare Innovation Summit is to make sure we have the right debates, ask the right questions and come away from the summit with the right learnings.