Improving south-west access to healthcare: MMB technology to the rescue
The need to devise innovative and IT-driven ways to improve Nigerians’ access to qualitative healthcare was advanced at a health symposium held in Lagos by Nigerians like, Founder, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr Ola Brown; Director at Institute of Genetic Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Professor Fola Esan; Registrar, Medical Rehabilitation Therapy (Registration) Board of Nigeria, Mrs Olukunle Akanle; Registrar, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi; Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Professor Chris Bode represented by Dr Olufemi Fasanmade. Consequently, MyMedicalBank, (MMB) was birthed.
Nigerians who spoke at the symposium, to include Seun Adewuyi, Dr Ibukun Adebayo, Mr Tobi Oludayomi, Mr Olawale Esan, Mr Adesola Adebayo, identified low level of health literacy, poverty and inadequate funding as responsible for the high mortality, from avoidable deaths, among the Nigerian populace. This is as they added that many Nigerians were not well informed about recognizing symptoms of major health conditions and preventive measures they can adopt. This, he noted resulted in limited patient engagement and substandard health outcomes.
MyMedicalBank is a comprehensive digital platform that enables users’ health information to be aggregated from disparate locations and become accessible securely from any location using any Internet-enabled device, such as computer, tablet or Smartphone. According, to founder, MyMedicalBank (MMB), Ayo Adebamowo, the intention was to leverage on the opportunities offered by Information and Communication Technology to improve access of the average Nigerian to healthcare. MMB comes in form of an application where healthcare seekers can call on registered healthcare professionals, who are available, to attend to them in a domestic setting.
“MyMedicalBank is a digital platform that is designed to enable an average Nigerian to have access to their health records irrespective of where they are receiving care. It gives the healthcare professional, healthcare providers, the opportunity to have access to the information they need.
“Instead of people waiting till they are sick or their health deteriorates before accessing healthcare, the platform allows people to access empowering information and things they can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There is a saying that Prevention is better than cure; prevention is not only better but also cheaper than cure.
“We realized that a lot of conversations in the country has largely focused on the problems and challenges in the health sector. We thought it is high time to change that narrative and discuss practicable and actionable solutions. We realized that the challenges are due to inadequate funding. The question is how we can leverage on ICT to bring about health care access to the common man.
“Our goal is to make it possible that not just the elite, who have the money to fly abroad, access health, but also the common man access good health care.
“Statistics show that about 97 million Nigerians regularly use the Internet. Someone with N1,000 a month can subscribe and use the service. I believe Nigerians can still afford this. The tools and resources are those that can be affordable to the average Nigerian,” Adebamowo said.
In his remarks, Registrar, MDCN, Sanusi averred that the health system must embrace ICT to enhance networking, referrals and to provide medical treatment across divides.
He however warned the developers of the MyMedicalBank platform to be wary of ensuring that only qualified health practitioners are on the platform and guarantee confidentiality by preserving the health information of their subscribers.
On her part, Mrs Olukunle Akanle decried the inadequacy of healthcare providers to meet the healthcare needs of Nigerians.
She specially charged the MMB platform designers to regularly update their medical bank, while praying that the platform does not get hacked into by quack doctors and medical rehabilitation professionals.
While noting that the use of IT to improve healthcare access had become imperative, Professor Esan wondered if rural communities, with poor Internet penetration, could access opportunities offered by the MMB digital platform.
“The Internet penetration in Nigeria is poor, slow connection. It is good in the cities but in the villages, you find out you encounter difficulty in accessing your email. The nation is not properly connected. Healthcare delivery for the common man is at a poor level because nobody cares for the common man. The only time they care is when they want to get votes. I am hopeful that we can do it, but are our people prepared to do the right things?” Esan enthused.
Noting that the increasing population continued to pose a challenge to healthcare, Founder, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr Brown emphasized that the nation must look towards ICT to help reduce the cost of healthcare.
Though she harped on the importance of primary healthcare-centric system, Brown stressed that the nation must use technology to reduce the cost of primary health care and focus on prevention.
Speaking, Lead Software developer, Mr Tobi Oludayomi allayed fears of confidentiality, noting that the MMB platform came with a number of protocols, using encryption technology to ensure the security of people’s health records.
Oludayomi avowed that only the patient and their authorized healthcare provider will be able to access patient’s information.
“We take the issue of confidentiality serious. What we have done is we have designed a number of prototols that ensure the security of the data that is stored using encryption technology. Beyond that, it is about who will be able to have access to the information to a person’s health records.
“Only the patient and their authorized healthcare provider will be able to access the patient’s information. Doctors without any relationship with patients cannot access people’s health records. These ensure security and confidentiality of the patient’s data,” Oludayomi said.