The future of healthcare will be driven by using technology to improve many aspects of healthcare system. Machine learning will be a critical part of that equation.
In Africa, this is heating up and many entrepreneurs are getting into the business of health-tech.
Lot of startups are currently mushrooming which is a good sign as far as heath technology is concerned. Upon integration in medicine, AI and different technology components take care of ‘repetitive work’ like analysis of X-Rays. This in turn leads to saving the radiologists’ time and thereby lead to them devoting more time towards patients.
According to experts, the healthcare market represents $3 trillion, almost 20 percent, of the U.S. economy. It notes that this market also is plagued by a level of gross inefficiency and under-performance largely unseen in any other industries in our post-internet world. The paradigm, however, is shifting dramatically.
In Africa, the numbers are certainly different as we have not been investing in healthcare. But the opportunity for disruption is certainly huge for a continent with more than 1.2 billion people. After agriculture, healthcare is another industry with latent opportunity for bold entrepreneurs to redesign and create value.
Africa’s healthcare is such a bloated and bureaucratic industry that, at first glance, it might seem immune to disruption by innovators. But that is changing. Some emerging startups in Africa working on different heath-tech areas include the following:
- medexperts is an online Community of Practice designed for Nigerian healthcare professionals and the Nigerian Public
- The Cardiopad offers nurses and cardiologists an innovative methods for performing cardiac examinations and remote interpretations
- Mozambikes brings lower cost, yet higher quality bicycles to the people of Mozambique
- MedicRAM (Medical Records And Management) is an innovative modular health IT solution that is intended to transform the way healthcare is managed
- Santé Africa is a mobile app connecting doctors with patients, providing education to those who seek it and offering access to medical supplies at the convenience of your home.
- ClaimSync is an end-to-end claims processing platform that enables hospitals and other healthcare providers easily prepare medical claims and send them electronically to health insurance companies
- MobiSure is a disruptive mobile medical insurance for the poor.
- QuaWater develops and delivers products and projects that significantly improve the quality of people’s drinking water
- Ruby Cup is a menstrual cup, an alternative menstrual hygiene product made of medical grade silicone that can be re-used up to 10 years.
- Penda Health is a social enterprise that provides health services designed for low and middle income women in Kenya.
The ability for these companies to move to the next level will be determined by their capacities to deepen their computational capabilities.
Machine Learning /Electronics
Machine Learning can be programmed to work efficiently with precision medicine which is built on the unique genetic characteristics of a patient. It is natural that people have different genomes, AI would integrate with this and display vital statistics (and errors, if any) relatively early. AI will help patients in preventing them from turning chronic.
This vision is that with artificial intelligence and machine learning, these innovators can strive to program the systems in such a way that the lifespan of people is increased. Even life expectancy ratio would increase manifold. Another important aspect is foetal monitoring in pregnant women. This is now evolving big-time across the world.
African startups will naturally need capabilities in embedded electronics to make this transition. Most are still at the level of software and largely data collection on websites. To collect, process and make sense of the data, electronics will be part of the equation.
Making healthcare affordable and accessible is critical in Africa. That will only happen when sensible regulations are put in place in the continent along with innovations by our tech entrepreneurs. It is not likely that we are going to see the change coming from products made by GE, Samsung and other global giants.
They do not really understand us because our challenges are never their challenges. So, African innovators are the ones that must step up and transform the continent.
The next few years look promising but we still need capital to take risks on the most ambitious innovators.