Martins Ifijeh

A recent survey conducted on 500 Nigerians by Royal Philips has shown that about half of the citizens trust Nigeria’s healthcare system while only 36 per cent feel their healthcare needs are being met, highlighting a discrepancy between the healthcare expectations of Nigerians and the reality

The findings reveal that with more than half of Nigerians leaning on hospital facilities for the most minor of ailments, there is a clear need for improved access to primary care practitioners, local health facilities, tracking health indicators and a wider availability of information about health, nutrition and fitness.

This approach, according to the Chief Executive Officer of Philips Africa, Jasper Westerink, “further reinforced by the fact that majority (65 per cent) of Nigerians believe improved access to health facilities would make them more effective in managing their health, thus alleviating pressure on the healthcare system.

“This study highlights the need for a greater focus on preventive healthcare for a sustainable health system, especially given the prevalence of lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The results also reinforce the need for the national government to invest a significant percentage of its healthcare budget towards medical research, preventive care, acute care and general health education. This also suggests that more personalised consultations, more first-time right diagnosis, and timely treatments from healthcare professionals (HCPs) will further help reduce the burden on the healthcare industry in the country.”

Westerink continues, “With these findings as a guiding light, we are engaging with all relevant stakeholders to drive the debate and ultimately improve the quality and cost effectiveness of healthcare services for future generations. We believe that sustainable healthcare development requires a system-wide approach, combining technology, capacity-building including training, service and maintenance, as well as long-term financing. To that end, we aim to expand access to quality and affordable healthcare across the country and compliment significant efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s growing health sector.”

He said other key findings of the survey include: “Nigerians feel the national government should be deploying an equal proportion of its healthcare budget toward “sick care” (49 per cent) and on preventive measures (48 per cent).

“A majority (65 per cent) of Nigerians believe improved access to health facilities would make them more effective in managing their health, followed by keeping track of health indicators (52 per cent), and access to more information about health, nutrition and fitness (48 per cent). 82 per cent believe that the National Health Insurance will have a positive impact on patient outcomes over time. Among those who have ever seen a healthcare professional, most (64 per cent) are confident in their healthcare professionals’ understanding of connected care technology
Looking to the future, he said consumers are increasingly expecting to use digital technologies to control when, where and how they receive care services. “By harnessing digital technologies in this way, the healthcare sector will increasingly be able to empower human judgement, free up clinician time and personalise care services to put control in the hands of patients.

“In order to increase the likelihood of connected care technology being used, training opportunities, informational resources such as databases of available technologies, and government subsidies to manage cost concerns, may be needed to improve health systems at a tertiary level. “Conversely, digitisation could additionally offer a breakthrough opportunity to improve the healthcare need of the Nigerian population by breaking down traditional cost structures,” said Westerink.

He explained that by connecting patients, and care providers with public health workers via mobile telecommunications on available cellular networks, we can fill critical gaps in primary care and have a lower cost base at the primary level of intervention.”

“These findings indicate that there is significant room for growth if investment is made towards the sector. “Health practitioners in Nigeria must tap in to the benefits of information technology in order to change the face of medical practice in the country and avoid being left out of global trends. Although there are good medical doctors in Nigeria, there is also a need to develop new ways of delivering healthcare like telemedicine for instance.” says Westerink. However, the data from this survey in itself is not enough; it is vital that the findings trigger robust debate at a local level in order to benchmark measurements and ultimately contribute to progress,” Westerink explained.

The survey results were released Tuesday in Lagos at the ‘The Future of Health’ summit in association with Forbes and CNBC Africa, where eminent speakers shared their insights and case studies on the State of Healthcare in Nigeria.