Nigerian health experts turn to Artificial Intelligence, mHealth, eHealth

Some stakeholders from the federal and state ministries of health have recommended the use of digital technology, comprising of eHealth, mHealth and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve healthcare in Nigeria.

The decision makers made the recommendation on Wednesday at a two-day Digital Health Masterclass in Lagos which had directors from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and State Ministries of Health (SMoH) in attendance.

The training, organised by Dokilink — an online networking platform for healthcare practitioners — had the theme: “Digital Health Training: A Masterclass for Technical and Non-Technical Managers”.

The training which held at the Enterprise Development Centre, Pan Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos, was sponsored by John Hopkins Programme for International Education on Gynaecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO).

The training was aimed at building the capacity and capability of programme managers, especially in the use of digital technology to improve healthcare.

Dr Adeolu Arogundade, Head, Clinical Services, Lagos State Accident and Emergency Centre (LASAEC), said that mHealth and eHealth gaves more access to universal health.

According to him, in high income countries, there is an Application (App) for everything.

The Apps are used for tracking health and also to provide a portable avenue to collect patient data.

The Trauma Physician explained that digital health was when technology was used to support healthcare.

He said that mHealth was the use of mobile technology which included mobile phones to support healthcare, while eHealth is leveraging on the internet or any electronic tool to get health information to engage patients.

Arogundade said that mHealth would help to strengthen healthcare service delivery by providing information that promotes client education and behavioural change, improve electronic health records, electronic decision support and human resource management.

On the use of eHealth, he urged patients to be engaged in their healthcare.

“When a patient is involved in his own healthcare, he tends to do better.

“People are likely to alter their behaviour and modify their lifestyle if they are shown what is right for them, where they are and what they should do to get to where they should be,” he said.

Dr Niyi Osamiluyi, Founder of Dokilink, said AI would help to extend the capacity and capabilities of healthcare providers, especially in the areas of radiology and pathology.

“AI is important in Nigerian healthcare because it will help to alleviate the lack of human resources for health, poverty and epidemiological transition of disease burden.

“It will help in primary care by making patient diagnosis faster and more accurate,” he said.

Knowledge gained

The Health Commissioner of Cross River, Dr Inyang Asibong, who participated in the training, said the knowledge gained  would help to improve the ICT unit of the ministry.

She also said that digital health would help in collating data and keeping medical records for the state’s health insurance scheme which was launched last May.

“We also have the Hellomama project in the state which is digital. It’s a way of trying to make sure we improve on our maternal mortality indices.

“There women access healthcare either by text messaging or by voice notes.

“Infact, right now we’re working on making that voice coming to the women be from the governor, Prof. Ben Ayade.

“We’re going to record the governor’s voice, so anytime the call comes into their phones and they pick, they’ll hear the governor telling them to go for antenatal care, telling them what to eat,” she disclosed.

Addressing morbidity, mortality

Dr Olusegun Oyeniyi, Deputy Director, Reproductive Health Division, FMoH, said leveraging on digital health would help to reduce morbidity and mortality of mother and child in the country.

“Digital health is going to help improve data management, it’s going to help us solve issues of data collection, data collation, analysis, reporting, and even notification of the morbidity and mortality.

“If this is addressed, we will be able to use it to take decisions promptly, not waiting for paperwork that takes time to get to the appropriate authority before decisions are taken.

“Efforts are going on by the Federal Government, by partners, for us to do this so that we can collect information right from the health facility down to the authority that will be able to take fast decisions,” he said.

Joseph Enne, Digital Health Officer of JHPIEGO, said his organisation hoped that with the training received, the health ministries would be able to manage the project and ensure its sustainability.

“JHPIEGO, sponsored the Hellomama project in both Cross River and Ebonyi states.

“Hellomama is a project geared towards ensuring behavioural change in expectant and new mothers,” he said.