New technologies are set to transform the health sector in Côte d’Ivoire, improving the provision and quality of services, especially in rural and remote areas.
An App for That
New technology is set to play an important role in improving access in areas where the financial and physical accessibility of provision is limited. Providers have turned to mobile phones to inform populations about health-related issues. This is an increasingly popular avenue, especially as the mobile phone penetration rate stood at around 130% as of 2017. In 2016, for example, Ivorian engineer Etche Noël N’Drin developed an e-vaccination app that sends an SMS reminding parents to vaccinate their children and also warns of ongoing epidemics, such as Ebola. In a country where 90% of children do not keep up with their vaccines, N’Drin told international media, there is a significant need for such a service. The app costs CFA1000 (€1.50) per year. In 2018 French telecoms company Orange, in partnership with Swiss children’s health organisation Gavi and the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene (Ministère de la Santé et de l’Hygiène Publique, MHPH), launched M-Vaccin Côte d’Ivoire, which sends vaccine reminders in local languages via SMS and voice message. In June 2018 the National Health Insurance Fund launched the application MyCMU aimed at informing the population about the Universal Health Coverage programme. Through the app, the insured can receive information about registration sites, the status of their contribution, care options, and pharmacies and health centres in the network.
New technologies can also contribute to more efficient management of patients and human resources. The Medical Management Society of the International Polyclinic Saint Anne Marie of Abidjan (Société de Gestion Médicale de la Polyclinique Internationale Sainte-Anne-Marie d’Abidjan, PISAM) is integrating technology into its business plan with its PISAM 2.0 project which centralises data so patient information can be accessed remotely. “Data and technology are huge topics for all health care players,” Johan Descombes, regional head for francophone West Africa at Roche in Côte d’Ivoire, told OBG. “This allows centralised information to be shared with stakeholders. Health providers and tech companies around the world are getting closer to centralisation and the same needs to happen in Côte d’Ivoire.”
For those 32% of Ivorians living over 5 km from a health centre, drone technology offers an avenue to greater accessibility and care. Zipline International, a US company that distributes blood products and emergency medicine via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), entered into talks with the MHPH about a potential collaboration for the delivery of medical supplies. The company has been providing such services in remote areas of Rwanda since 2017. This is especially valuable in a country where poor road infrastructure has hampered access to some regions. With a speed of 165 km per hour, the UFVs could ensure quick delivery of supplies, particularly important for maternal health.
Telemedicine is also a growing method of care delivery. Entities such as the Pierre Fabre Foundation, which funded a diploma on teledermatology at the University of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan and two other universities, as well as Israeli life science firm NovaMed, which developed a consultation-without-appointment platform, have already entered the telemedicine market in Côte d’Ivoire. Public-private partnerships are also being utilised to strengthen telemedicine, such as a May 2018 programme in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation and the US Agency for International Development to offer remote training for health professionals in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The potential for technology to improve the quality of and accessibility to health care in Côte d’Ivoire will create wider opportunities for improvement in both private and public health care facilities. Moving forward, collaboration between the two sectors will be imperative to providing timely, high-quality care for Ivorians.
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