Nigeria: How to bridge health research gaps

Nigeria: How to bridge health research gaps

Reports Sade Oguntola(Nigeria Tribune):

Strategic Research and Management (STREAM) Insight is imperative in accessing customer satisfaction and providing in-depth analytics. Mr Adewale Opawale, the Executive Director of STREAM Insight, said the use of innovative technology as well as regular monitoring and evaluation of all health interventions will go a long way to make healthcare services better.

As an outfit, how have you been supporting healthcare provision through your services using in-depth analysis? Most hospitals in Nigeria are not IT compliant; they do not have an electronic data base. They still make use of paper case notes and as a result, it is difficult for them to manage the information that they have. Though they see patients every day, what is done with such data gathered is equally important. It is also a challenge that is obvious in interventions or programmes of many Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). They access grants, but the question is how well do they monitor and evaluate these interventions? These are some of the issues that outfit like ours deal with.

Considering the contributions of STREAM Insight to the health sector, how can IT, better improve health in Nigeria? For the hospitals, the proposal to use digital case notes can make the system more efficient. Beside the use of digital case notes, hospital information can also be computerised, following pen and paper, and retrieved easily when required.

From our experience with NGOs, good data monitoring and evaluation will give confidence and accountability to donor agencies on the impact made. Going the IT way, no doubt that this will benefit the health sector a lot. However, most of these innovations are just becoming embraced in Nigeria.

The use of digital case notes can ensure easy access to patients’ medical history which gives opportunity for what is called patient analytics. This will help to have at the finger tip the common diseases that are seen in the hospitals and the patients attended to in a hospital. On a larger scale, it will help to know the prevailing diseases in community, the pragramatic interventions and the preventive mechanisms necessary.

For most hospitals, remember they are profit making, it will help to plan their logistics, including financial resources and general management.

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Is it expensive to go the digital way in our hospitals? I really cannot say that it is cheap for now. It depends on so many factors, including the size of the hospital and the extent to which the digitalisation exercise operates.

How about challenges of hackers or loss of information? There is online and offline data base. If it is an offline data base, nobody can have access to such information beside the agency that developed the database, like our outfit, as well as the hospital involved. Even if it is online, information are securely encrypted and safe from hackers over the internet.

How about the system crashing? Will it be difficult for patients to continue their care? There is usually a backup for database. In fact, in our outfit, we do data archiving. This type of backup is not for short term alone; rather it is for storing long term information. When you set up a data archiving system, it is like keeping an item in a museum. It can last forever!

If all Nigerian hospitals keep their data in the electronic form, how will that impact on the health of Nigerians in general? No doubt, it will make the system faster; the patients’ waiting time spent looking for patient information before they see the doctor is minimised. All of these invariably would ensure that the doctor can attend to more patients within a short period of time. In addition, there will be less stress on the hospital personnel.

As a company that digs deep into consumers’ mind set, what is the common mindset you have discovered? A consumer is someone that uses a service or product. Suppliers or manufacturers need feedback on what consumers think about their product and how they can improve on their products. We call this consumer mind set. There are many companies in Nigeria who have products and services and do not get any feedback from their consumer that is why they need consumer research. This probes into their usage and attitude, brand health trackers, product test, concept test etc.

What are those things you have come to notice about Nigerians mindset on accessing health care? The major issues in Africa are affordability and patient waiting time. For instance, why will I take my child to a private hospital, for immunisation and pay lots of money when such service is available for free at the government hospital?

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Another issue is why are pregnant women not patronising government hospitals for antenatal care? Research has shown that over 50 per cent of pregnant women still do not complete antenatal care.

Your outfit has been involved in carrying out epidemiological studies, what are some of the findings of these studies? Health issues will continue to arise. They are easily discovered in developed countries as they come up, the case is not so in developing countries. This has to do with monitoring of diseases.

Our past activities on HIV, for instance showed that though the awareness level of this disease is very high, knowledge level is quite low. For instance, everybody is aware of malaria and that they should sleep under mosquito nets, but how many people actually sleep under these nets? Few people do.

Personal hygiene is another issue. Many people know they must regularly wash their hands, but how many people do so? These are simple issues that will prevent diseases.

So what can STREAM Insight do? We help to assess knowledge, awareness and other risk factors of any disease in order to bring such findings out to effect a change.

The health research you get involved in, who finances them? Companies, including Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) finance these studies. Government could also get more involved in research to understand and monitor disease so that less money is spent on curative medicine. Let’s go the preventive way!

What is your take on clinical trials? Are they supposed to be allowed in the country? Clinical trials should be allowed in Nigeria because we need to develop, discover new drugs and try more drugs. However, the issue of ethics is very crucial and should not be undermined. Clinical trials are still up-coming in Nigeria.

You are involved in Health awareness surveys. Of what importance are these?
It will afford government and other organisations assess people’s knowledge on various diseases, the risk factors, how to prevent them and other issues surrounding them. This will help manage people and available resources for health development.