The Growing Adoption of Telemedicine in Nigeria: Benefits, Challenges and Future Prospects

Startups and telemedicine platforms are here to stay and have made medical assistance outside of traditional facilities more accessible, kept different communities informed, and are restructuring society by providing a more convenient way to healthcare for individuals.

With its popularity, it is gradually becoming a system of altruism and profit. It also plays a direct and indirect role in reducing contamination, its spread and exposure to infections and diseases for both patients and staff.

Telemedicine has Landed a Role in the Digital Industry

The wave of support for telemedicine has spurred rapid growth and is preparing the industry to become a part of everyday life on a long-term basis.

Telemedicine is the provision and management of healthcare facilitated by telecommunications technology to provide and manage individual health challenges, with the support of trained and experienced healthcare professionals.

However, with its growing popularity, user experience is set to become an even greater priority. The medical industry is adapting to its new reality, along with its challenges and aims to provide creative solutions to them.

Telemedicine Adoption

Telemedicine has become a tool used to respond to humanitarian needs. Moreover, its activity has become an integral part of healthcare delivery because it serves as a viable means of making up for the shortfall in the number of healthcare professionals and systems available to assist the growing number of patients in the country.

The use of telemedicine in Nigeria dates back to 2007 when the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) opened their pilot project in a number of health institutes and has continued to spread.

In 2020, Broadband Communities Magazine reported that the global telemedicine market is expected to be worth $53.1 billion by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of 14.19% from 2019 to 2026.

The Industry therefore has grown beyond just what it’s technology is all about; it’s delivery now also requires changes in work practices and data organization.

Platforms such as Mobicure, GenRx, Hudibia, Lifebank and Doctor247 are few out of the many healthtech companies in Nigeria.

Benefits and Challenges

The benefits of telemedicine goes beyond preventing exposure to viruses and diseases. Healthcare professionals are adopting this technology due to its tremendous advantages. From the ability to constantly monitor all types of cases, review scans through digital connectivity and use IoT devices to improve patient and physician experience, among others.

However, despite the advancement of telemedicine, there is no doubt that every new technology comes with new challenges and many experts have identified many of them. Some of which include limited resources, unreliable power, poor connectivity, high cost to impoverished populations, financial incentives, high cost of setup and patient data privacy amongst many other things.

With More People Turning to Telemedicine, What Roles Will it Continue to Play?

Questions regarding the future of telemedicine are never fully answered, but it is necessary to pay attention to new developments affecting the health industry.

According to Dr.Steve Oyero, associate laboratory director of the Department of Histopathology at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) in an interview with CRESTHUB said that:

“Telemedicine has brought in many benefits to the health industry, and this is a fact. While it can provide healthcare to individuals, it is also reducing the rate of people commuting to access health care. It also allows the pollination of ideas which makes it very useful for Nigeria, simply because many people have become computer savvy and understand the value of the internet.

“Therefore, this means that over time the next generation will be able to appreciate it a lot more and apply it more effectively compared to what we have today.”

He stated that many traditional medical institutions and facilities are already working hand in hand with telehealth experts and professionals to get better and accurate diagnosis in rare medical conditions, in order to seek a second opinion from them and discover new and interesting things.

“Access to telemedicine experts has enabled us to harvest their insights, opinions, and diagnoses to help us make informed decisions in many medical situations. This collaboration happens often.”

“Telemedicine is growing rapidly but however, it is very unlikely that every medical institution will go completely electronic in the coming years. This is because it is very difficult to actually practice medicine and provide medical care completely online. There would always be a need for patients to have physical contact with doctors. There are no two ways about it. For example, in cases where blood needs to be transfused or a surgical emergency, we can’t perform surgery on an individual online unless we invent bots that can be sent to do so”.

“Despite all these, I also believe in the investment of digital health. The government should continue to support this health technology especially in the developing and testing of various solutions that are safe yet agile”.

He finally stated that the industry needs to continuously ensure that data security, intuitive, flexible, and tailored solutions be taken seriously and if done correctly, medical technology should be able to empower healthcare practices to reach new heights and thrive for many many years.