Adoption of Digital Solutions to Lower Healthcare Costs in Kenya

In the life of every enterprise, a moment arises when a choice must be made. Does the entity exist to give the customers what they seek, or does it merely seek to profit off its customers? In equal measure, the same is applicable in businesses in the healthcare industry. In retrospect, it has become apparent that the healthcare system has evolved from being characterized as an empathetic profession to out rightly being one that is driven by greed for profit. This selfish desire has been a defining element towards perception of the profession that has significantly led to the increase of healthcare costs globally. True to this, one popular American television series delves into how the legal drug industry purposefully ‘manipulates’ these dynamics that ultimately lead to the increasing cost of healthcare. The inefficiencies in healthcare service delivery in Kenya’s context is highly attributed to accessibility of medicine and healthcare services. In its entirety, it is eminent that affordability of healthcare services is still considered a pipe dream despite the country’s pursuit of devolution and economic betterment. On the contrary, it is still evident that we report shortcomings in prompt accessibility of medication, advancement of medical research, screening and diagnosis, which have been detrimental to healthcare performance over the years. With this in mind, it is imperative to question the status quo and ask ourselves, what can be done to address inefficiencies in Kenya’s healthcare sector?

According to the KNBS Economic Survey 2022, the national government expenditure on health services has risen from KES 61.8 billion in the year 2017/18 to an estimated value of KES 110.2 billion for the year 2021/22. Whilst the increase on expenditure levels on healthcare portrays intent in healthcare betterment, it does not necessarily mean that enough is being done in the sector. Evidently, Kenya’s healthcare system chokes on completing needs that range from medical personnel welfare demands to imported medical inflation costs brought about by weakening of the shilling against the dollar. Although these variables play a major role in creating a stable medical system, stakeholders in the sector have to embrace digital solutions if the overall goal of providing affordable universal health coverage is to be achieved.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) digital service website strives to improve health care and associated services by reducing pressures on frontline services hence improving overall service efficiency. Adopting such a strategy will enable Kenya improve its medical information value chain hence building confidence among service consumers and improving its response rate to medical emergencies. Adoption of artificial intelligence and modern technology can support the creation of a central healthcare database that could allow medical practitioners and patients access critical information in real time. The establishment of this comprehensive data-driven system would facilitate and fasten patient monitoring, logistics, testing and diagnostics.

Similarly, investing in latest diagnostic equipment that could detect diseases and chronic illnesses quickly stands to complement the digital healthcare database. For instance, efforts to contain and restrict the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus both locally and globally has seen the development and adoption of self-testing kits which ultimately end up reducing the overall cost of treatment and tackling vices such as stigmatization. Such initiatives could be channeled towards tackling upcoming chronic diseases such as Cancer.

In equal measure, financial medical value chains cannot go unmentioned. Efforts in adopting systems that can complement existing frameworks such as insurance can further expand access to affordable medical services, regardless of social or economic status. In India, deliberate efforts have facilitated significant improvements in the provision of  health care services. Implementation of policy recommendations and adoption of digital solutions have been the foundation for a reliable government-funded, efficient public health system that delivers preventive and curative healthcare services with such notable prominence.

Drawing reference from Britain and India, it is safe to say that the adoption of these digital solutions in the Kenyan context is feasible. So far, Government’s efforts in improving healthcare outreach through devolution is evident and quite impactful. However, the constant healthcare ennui signals a need for deeper adoption of digital solutions to lower healthcare costs in Kenya.

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