Organisational priorities are shifting as we move away from the pandemic response and into the recovery and rebuilding phase. Despite unprecedented challenges, the healthcare sector has seen growth and improvements in service delivery, some of which were influenced by Covid-19.
This year, it is expected that evolution will continue as the healthcare industry, like many others, strives to become more agile and responsive to changing consumer needs.
The increasing role of technology in healthcare is one of the key trends to look out for in 2023. As in many other industries, the importance of technology in healthcare is growing with solutions like cloud systems, artificial intelligence (AI), improved network infrastructure and proliferation of mobile devices being used at various points in the value chain.
Recognising the critical role that technology can play in bridging the physician-patient divide, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital launched Daktari Smart, a telemedicine platform, in 2021. It expands physicians’ reach and capacity, allowing them to access patients who may be unable to get to a hospital. With a Sh200 million war chest over the next two years, it is hoped to expand coverage.
Expect to see more healthcare providers adopting telemedicine and leveraging it to provide more immediate access to patients while also implementing controls to increase efficiency in follow-up and overall service delivery. Secondly, in a bid to be future-ready, they will increasingly digitise their systems in the digital transformation journey.
To reach more patients, they will strengthen their capacity to source, process, store and analyse data. That will be evident from the digitisation of patient files for easier access regardless of location to information sharing between healthcare providers and their stakeholders, such as insurance providers.
With digital transformation on the horizon, cybersecurity will become a top priority industrywide. Healthcare providers are constantly dealing with privileged and sensitive information; a data leak could be disastrous. The recently enacted Data Protection Act has set the stage for more stringent control of data and healthcare providers need to comply.
Thirdly, expect an increase in investment in mental health as we work to address the challenges. There is a high prevalence of mental illness. The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health say one in four Kenyans has a mental health problem.
The need to push for mainstreaming of mental health and mental healthcare may have become most apparent in 2020, when a taskforce appointed by the Health ministry recommended that mental health be declared a national emergency. We anticipate increased public and private sector investment in addressing mental health challenges, as well as increased public participation as more people open up and seek help.
The fourth trend is likely to have an impact on healthcare providers. As workplaces recover from the pandemic, employee welfare will become increasingly important throughout the year.
Hospitals were among the hardest hit as patient numbers increased and the risks associated with an airborne pandemic put a strain on healthcare workers.
Over the past two years, there have been several strikes by healthcare workers demanding better working conditions and higher pay. There is likely to be an increase in demand for medical professionals as available talent is poached to foreign countries or retires. Attracting and retaining top talent will be critical for healthcare providers, and worker welfare will take precedence.
Among the many other interesting developments in healthcare will be the rollout of universal health coverage (UHC). President William Ruto has promised reforms in healthcare financing and delivery. Overall, the expected trends are all geared towards protecting patient health and improving access to healthcare. Healthcare providers and other health sector stakeholders are committed to realising a healthy nation.
Dr Ngwiri, a paediatrician, is the head of clinical services at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital. [email protected]