The Coronavirus pandemic provides a good platform to take stock of Botswana’s healthcare through digital innovations and leapfrog e-health services, health scientist and Public Health researcher Taelo Morapedi has said.
Speaking to this publication over the weekend, she said when Botswana finally comes out of the fog left in the Covid-19 crystal ball, the country must be ready to translate shared visions of digitising Botswana’s healthcare to actions.
“Such a transition demands political commitments and concerted actions by various stakeholders,” she said.
Across Botswana, Covid-19 has awakened everyone to the country’s state of healthcare infrastructure. As the local infection rates are steadily increasing, public health professionals say the second wave of Covid-19 which has forced European Union countries to lockdown their countries, again, suggests a catastrophe could be simmering in Africa.
In her assessment, Covid-19 has given Botswana impetus to turn to mobile innovations in order to leapfrog the country’s e-health services. “There is no doubt that this pandemic is proving to be a launch pad for healthcare, and Botswana must not fall behind,” she retorts.
Among other things she also highlighted areas that she believes the government should pay attention to in its quest to unlock e-health in Botswana.
“Botswana must take a leaf out Rwanda’s success. Through Babyl, Rwanda has managed to enable access for more than 2 million of its citizens to healthcare through telehealth which is almost the population in Botswana,” she says.
She also says in order for Botswana to effectively unlock e-health, the country will need to undertake an extensive ICT literacy campaign across the country to compel the adoption of innovations by healthcare workers and citizens.
“Botswana’s young population is tech savvy and this is an added benefit. However, the government should also step in and proactively provide targeted education programmes to all its citizens,” she says.
Morapedi also says Botswana must unlock the insurance market to enable the average patient to pay for healthcare. “We have witnessed how paying out of pocket can have catastrophic effects on peoples’ income. And, again, Rwanda is a great country to benchmark because over 80% of their population is insured,” she says.
She also said having access to broadband is a precondition in telehealth’s use.
“The fact that majority of people in Botswana do not have access to digital connectivity has far-reaching consequences on more vulnerable populations, especially patients who reside in areas with limited access to quality health care facilities,” said Morapedi.