Digital revolution the way to Kenya’s health cover for all

Featured on Business Daily on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Kenya’s position as a global leader in mobile money means it is ideally placed to capitalise on its mobile technology and digital ecosystem to speed up its journey to Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC). Revolution will not happen overnight with one single digital solution, but rather through multiple digital innovations that interconnect across the industry.

The digital revolution has transformed diverse industries from banking to retail to leisure, altering the way we bank, transfer money, shop, travel and interact with each other.

However, the sector that arguably offers the greatest potential for revolution, and yet has so far lagged is healthcare.

The challenge is that it is hard to know where to start and where to invest.

When we look at the push for UHC in Kenya, these issues become even more pronounced.

Offering affordable and sustainable healthcare solutions to the entire Kenyan population is a huge challenge, involving a complex web of organisations and digital solutions.

Furthermore, UHC must also look to address healthcare demand and supply side issues.

Currently two in five Kenyans are not seeking healthcare when they need it for financial reasons.

Demand for health financing solutions, such as insurance, remains low – despite massive progress over the last few years.

On the supply-side, there are still issues on access and quality.

Where Kenya has a clear advantage is in technology. It continues to be a global leader in mobile technology adoption with 90 per cent mobile penetration, and nearly 50 per cent smartphone penetration. 4G sites across the country reach more than 33 per cent of the country’s population. Almost 50 per cent of Kenyans are online and these are mostly mobile-first internet users.

A practical and sustainable UHC solution simply must make use of this competitive advantage.

On the demand side, self and agent-led enrolment onto programmes can be transformed by mobile outreach. It significantly reduces costs, while increasing quality through better data gathering and analytics. The digital identification of individuals for accessing care services can help with efficiency and transparency.

DNET’s Aponjon (Mama Bangladesh) programme switched from cash to mobile money for financial incentives for agents to enroll new customers in the program’s maternal health information service.

Time taken to process monthly incentive payments reduced from 30 days to eight, the cost of processing payments fell by 85 per cent.

A digital platform also enables a continuous relationship with citizens. It opens up possibilities around engagement, retention, preventive care and behavioural ‘nudging’.

For healthcare providers, digital improves the management of the patient population, through improvements in the range and quality of healthcare services, as well as improved management of the patient journey.

Digital finance is key in the efficient and transparent transfer of funds between all parties – citizens, governments, NGOs and insurers.

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