The Nigerian government said its recent partnership with Ethnomet, a Canadian leading firm in healthcare technology, is driven by desire to bring affordable healthcare to millions of Nigerians beginning with public servants and also reduce the capital flight on health tourism in excess of $1.2 billion annually.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, who unveiled the digital healthcare platform, NigComHealth, in Abuja recently, said the partnership between Ethnomet and Nigeria Communications Satellite Ltd (NigComSat) has expanded the window for cost effective and efficient health system to more people.
The platform would promote a “more efficient and effective healthcare system that could be accessible to all Nigerians,” said Pantami who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Professor Sahalu Junaidu.
The minister also added that the current situation is worsening, with “each physician attending to more than 5,000 patients. This represents a stark contrast with the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of 1 doctor to 600 patients. With 218 million people to cater for, the minister said Nigeria requires “at least 363,000 additional doctors to meet this target,” which NigComHealth will help to achieve.
The minister added: “To bridge the gap, there is urgent need to leverage on the disruptive technology to improve access to healthcare services and quality medical practitioners available within Nigeria and across the globe. Therefore, NigComHealth Platform is a timely solution that could ensure that quality healthcare services are available to all Nigerians, irrespective of their locations. I encourage stakeholders in the health sector, both public and private to onboard into the initiative.”
NigComHealth is a new telemedicine platform that combines innovative technology with advanced medical tools and pre-vetted licensed healthcare practitioners, enabling virtual medical visits that are secure, efficient, and personalized.
The new deal with Ethnomet has the indigenous tech company Sawtrax as the local partner to implement the platform across Nigeria. This will make it possible for Nigerians in any part of the country, including rural and remote areas, to book and attend appointments with qualified doctors.
The NigComHealth as a telemedicine platform will transform the way patients and healthcare providers connect by providing convenient and accessible medical consultations via licensed healthcare professionals anytime, anywhere via mobile app.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. James Christoff, said the platform will be a game changer in improving health outcomes especially in underserved and remote areas.
His words: “the technology has been developed with the vision and strategic objective of having over 80 Federal and State-owned Government hospitals coexist on the platform. The platform is also meant to provide digital health services to 1.7 million public sector workers and their families in Nigeria,]”
The envoy applauded both the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and the Federal Ministry for Health for their vision and unparalleled commitment to the promotion of technology and health innovation in Nigeria.
Managing Director of NigComSat Limited, Tukur Lawal, said that the platform will reduce the massive capital flight spent by Nigerians on medical tourism annually.
According to him, the platform will provide Nigerians with the opportunity to access affordable and world-class services from professionals regardless of their geographic location, and without the need to travel to urban areas.
Ethnomet CEO, Ms. Garnette Weber, who joined the event virtually, described the digital health solution as a demonstration of Nigeria’s government commitment to leveraging innovative technologies to provide quality and accessible healthcare for Nigerians in all regions.
“Telehealth has proven to be very effective in addressing these healthcare challenges as indicated in the Commonwealth Fund’s International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians. In 2022, General Practitioners from 10 different countries reported that 52% of encounters would have been clinically appropriate through video interactions with patients. Telehealth services improve health resource utilization and access to care,” Weber said.
Product Director for Ethnomet, Mike Amanyi, presented and demonstrated the technology’s capabilities. In addition to booking and attending appointments with doctors and specialists, the opportunity also exists for community virtual health centers, and integrating health data from smartwatches and other wearable devices. He said NigComSat and Ethnomet have scheduled training for industry leaders and other stakeholder in days ahead so as to get everyone acquitted with how the platform works.