Telemedicine is well on its way to becoming an effective remedy for Nigerians’ medical woes. Frustrated, disillusioned and often angered by the poor quality of healthcare and medical facilities in the country, Nigerians can now receive speedy health-related service right from the comfort of their own homes. Ideally, telemedicine platforms ensure that Nigerians have medical support at their fingertips. Providing access to doctors for even a fraction of the 200 million citizens that make up Nigeria’s population is extremely difficult, especially considering the saddening lack of medical infrastructure available. This has created a high demand for healthcare services and a huge market for Telemedicine to thrive in. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is telemedicine and how can it help Nigerians?
Now, it might interest you to know that Telemedicine isn’t new to Nigeria. In fact, a quick Google search will tell you that the use of telemedicine in Nigeria goes as far back as 2007 when the National Space Research and Development Agency and Federal Ministry of Health inaugurated their first project in six Federal Medical Centers and two teaching hospitals across the country. However, despite all its obvious benefits and potential, the vast majority of Nigerians either don’t take advantage of Telemedicine or simply do not know about it.
By definition, Telemedicine is the practice of offering medical services over the internet, without a physical meeting between the patient and the healthcare provider. These medical practitioners make use of mediums such as video consultations and chats to deliver good healthcare services that are in line with the modern trend of telecommunications and social media. It not only bridges the gap between Nigerians and the best medical practitioners but also provides a solution to the brain drain and shortage of doctors in the country, as the platform gives users access to doctors from anywhere in the world!
In a country with only four doctors for every 10,000 people, the need for Telemedicine cannot be overstated. For the average Nigerian, roadside pharmacies and chemists are their first choice for rapid healthcare, and when you consider how expensive private hospitals are and the many grueling hours often spent waiting for assistance in public hospitals, it’s easy to see where Telemedicine and Telehealth can fit in, especially in terms of reducing the time, money and effort spent by Nigerians who need medical help. Unfortunately, not many Nigerians have embraced the innovation.
Factors affecting the adoption of telemedicine in Nigeria
Although some strides have been made in the telecommunications sector in Nigeria over the last few years, there are still challenges that need to be dealt with if telemedicine is to succeed in the country. This includes internet penetration which currently stands at about 51% — which means that a large number of Nigerians don’t have access to the internet in order to even use Telemedicine. It goes without saying that since telemedicine will be working based on the internet providers in the telecom industry, the quality of internet access and the issue of recurrent network failures must be addressed.
Similarly, the poor literacy rate amongst the general population also poses a challenge. But even amongst those that are literate and connected to the web, there is still little to no information about telemedicine, which may very well be a reason why its services are not yet widely known. And then of course there’s the erratic power supply, the numerous language barriers, and the general skepticism amongst Nigerians to consider.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Already, many privately owned telemedicine companies are sprouting up and making an entrance into the system, and local telemedicine outlets are being set up in some states, including Lagos and Oyo.
Some telemedicine providers and options available in Nigeria
Health Connect combines next-generation telemedicine, telemonitoring, and home health to provide immediate access to round-the-clock healthcare.
Tremendoc offers a 24 hours holistic virtual experience that provides accessible and affordable health care services through telemedicine.
Founded in 2020, CribMD has evolved into a hospital on-demand where patients with a subscription plan can request a doctor for house calls and consult remotely.
Boasting medical consultations for as low as 300 Naira, iWello is a Nigerian start-up making healthcare available to people who live from paycheck to paycheck or below the poverty line.
Named one of Nigeria’s most promising startups in 2017, Medsaf is an e-health startup that is making the process of buying and selling medication in Nigeria’s complex health system easy and efficient.
This is a platform that makes blood available to Nigerians by mobilizing blood donations, taking inventory of all blood available in the country, and delivering blood to where it is needed.
With its global market expected to be worth $53.1 billion by 2026 and annual growth of about 14.19%, there is no better time for Nigeria to fully embrace and invest more into this new opportunity that telemedicine presents. This does not mean that physical doctors and hospitals are not needed – they are, as there are several medical procedures that cannot be done over the phone. But, with the right planning and infrastructural measures put in place, Telemedicine could be the medical support and lifeline that Nigerians need.