Opinion & Analysis

An idea whose time has come is e-Health

ONE thing that has remained constant for humanity is change. Humanity has faced many changes. While some changes may have been for the worst, we have ultimately changed for the better. Milestone upon milestone we have continuously become more advanced people.

One of the greatest markers of humanity’s milestones of change is the industrial revolution.

Humanity has made great strides from mechanisation right up to the information age. One of the factors that have affected our quality of life and how we rate ourselves is our adaptation skills. The ability to either champion the necessary change, that is to innovate or the ability and the speed at which we adopt the change that is to learn from innovators, to follow and to improve.

This ability to adapt, among other things, has contributed to different societies being rated as 1st World, 2nd World and 3rd World. It is more common to find the innovators and early adopters of positive change among the 1st World communities.

Generally the late majority and the sluggards populate 3rd World societies. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Some of the reasons are political and economic stability, because these two affect whether or not the environment is conducive for positive change, development and innovation.

On the other hand, historically we can see that the inability of a society to participate in a particular industrial revolution can somewhat preclude that society from competitively participating in the industrial revolution that comes after it. That is because they would have missed out on the economic and political gains brought about by participating in the previous industrial revolution. Thus sinking them deeper and cementing their 3rd World status. This realisation has awakened and inspired some citizens in 3rd World countries who believe in their own ability to rise up and compete on the world stage.

Significant telecoms giants emerged from Africa, Zimbabwe in particular, at the wake of the 4th industrial revolution.

Econet Wireless emerged from a process that took several years and went on to become a globally significant corporation, giving birth to other significant companies such as Liquid Telecommunications, which has now rebranded to Liquid Intelligent Technologies. These among other companies have contributed to high mobile and internet penetration in Zimbabwe and other African countries.

Many sectors in Zimbabwe have jumped on to the 4th industrial revolution, thanks to those who paved the way and lifted the gates of innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in information technology. We witnessed the emergence of mobile money, which was not only a first in Zimbabwe, but also a first globally.

Many banks incorporated mobile money into their systems and fortified their online banking and plastic money systems. A significant portion of retailers also embraced online shopping as well as ordering deliveries via the telephone. That being said, a few sectors had not fully embraced the changes of the times.

The Covid-19 pandemic would soon goad them in the direction of information technology.

The Covid-19 pandemic came with lockdown restrictions and an overwhelmed health sector. Patient and customer traffic into pharmacies, hospitals and clinics was high. Most doctors and pharmacists were somewhat caught off guard and had to quickly adapt. They were faced with the challenge of catering for the increased patient traffic while maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols.

A lot of doctors began to perform teleconsultations and send electronic copies of prescriptions to their clients. Pharmacies began to offer delivery services more than before and would allow patients to send through electronic copies of their prescriptions and order through deliveries for medications.

This marked the labour pains of a beckoning e-health era. A lot of pharmacies embraced online shopping and vamped up their online presence.

The government of Zimbabwe also recognised the need to revisit the digital health strategy, and it did so in October 2020, the true signs that we are no longer sluggards when it comes to innovation and positive change.

Many efforts are now being put into e-health. Such initiatives are necessary to keep our health sector running efficiently. Mukumba is a holder of an MMed Sc (Medical Informatics), BPharm (Hons).

It can never be a single entity’s job. There is a need for joint efforts by both the private and public sector. The public sector has paved a way by revisiting the digital health strategy.

Companies such as Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) have reengineered themselves in order to contribute to forming the enabling environment for e-health innovations to be fully utilised in Zimbabwe and beyond. Their new thrust is to exceed their customer expectations and be more competitive in the industry by metamorphosing from being a wholesale telecom provider into an intelligent technology solutions company.  What a great time for e-health to emerge in Zimbabwe, an idea whose time has come.

Takunda Mukumba is a holder of an MMed Sc (Medical Informatics), BPharm (Hons).