[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Cloud is transforming healthcare in Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that many healthcare organizations do not have the necessary agility and business continuity programs or technologies to support them during crises. It is forcing businesses to act on cloud and digital transformation strategies that they had been delaying until now.

In healthcare, cloud computing is applied to overcome two major industry challenges: increasing cost-effectiveness and building a self-sufficient health ecosystem.

Cloud computing, along with increasingly ubiquitous digital tools for collection, aggregation, and analysis of health data, according to Christopher A. LeGrand, CEO, BroadReach Group, offers substantial potential to help the African continent leapfrog many more mature systems in transforming healthcare and improving health outcomes. 

Findings from a study on Leveraging cloud computing for improved health service delivery conducted in Kisumu County in Kenya revealed that cloud computing had been adopted by 42 (53%) while Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service implementations were at 100%, 0% and 5% among adopters, respectively.

‘’Overall, those who had adopted cloud computing realized a significantly higher number of benefits to health service delivery compared to those who had not’’ the study notes.

Cloud computing has enabled the development of various e-healthcare platforms. The best examples, Kevin Rombosia, a healthcare leader and geospatial epidemiologist, says in an article published on Business Daily are the development of applications that enable a patient using a smartphone to access clinic consultation, laboratory services, diagnostics, and pharmacy services from the comfort of their homes. ‘’These platforms enable the storage of patient’s medical records such as past medical histories in the cloud and can be retrieved on demand. This is critical for the continuity of clinical care.’’ He says.

The continent has one of the greatest healthcare challenges in the world. Integrating cloud technology in current health care strategies, therefore, provides new ways of healthcare in Africa. This facilitates and engages the system, the health care professionals, and the patients.

According to a recent report by market research solution Reportlinker, the revenue of the global healthcare cloud computing market is expected to reach $52.30 billion by 2026 up from $11.59 billion in 2020, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28.5 percent during the period. The main growth factors till 2026 the report says include increased adoption of Software as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud service, with a market share of 63.7% in 2020, owing to the increasing number of providers and payors migrating toward more SaaS healthcare computing services to manage the growth inpatient data.

The bottom line, the cloud is more critical than ever in helping healthcare providers respond to the pandemic and prepare for future disruptions.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at Incentro Africa

[South Africa] KiaraHealth taps SAP cloud solution to streamline operations

Companies wishing to transform their operations through digital technologies often face a hard choice: stay with a legacy system and make the best of a legacy investment, or transition to a new digital platform but risk causing disruption in the lives of customers, partners and employees.

For one African pharmaceutical company, neither option was suitable, and so an exemplary digital transformation project was initiated that would completely transform its systems without any disruption to the business or its customers.

Kiara Health (Pty) Ltd is an African pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare solutions company headquartered in Johannesburg. It serves as a the local, non-exclusive manufacturing partner for a global top five pharmaceutical company and as a commercial partner for several global pharmaceutical and medical technology companies.

The acquisition by Kiara Health of a multinational pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, sold to fulfil a need for transformation in the local pharmaceutical sector, sees the dawn of a new type of pharmaceutical company that offers an end-to-end solution along the patient journey. Kiara Health, a 100% black-owned company, purchased this plant together with twenty-five marketing authorisations.

Kiara Health’s leadership was left with a vital decision: keep to the highly-customised SAP ECC system of the outgoing multinational company, with cost-prohibitive separation terms, or invest in a standalone cloud-based digital platform to streamline operations. They chose a turn-key ERP system by SAP to support its operations.

Dr Skhumbuzo Ngozwana, CEO and President of Kiara Health, says that the driving force behind the leadership team’s decision was to ensure that their customers do not suffer due to a transition to the new system. “We partnered with Seidor Westrocon and adopted SAP S/4HANA to simplify and automate our end-to-end processes, from product ordering through to production, packaging and distribution. We achieved go-live in four months, and within budget, with no disruption to our business. This implementation is potentially unprecedented in an organisation of similar size and type.”

This decision has proven to be a success story as the transition from the old multinational modified system to the implementation of an off-the-shelf SAP offering ensured that the production facility remained operational throughout the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown period. Without any teething problems that would halt manufacturing, no employee jobs were put at risk due to the lockdown.

“This decision was taken by an extremely agile and highly qualified team of experts within Kiara Health and fully supports President Cyril Ramaphosa’s South African Economic Recovery Plan to generate 800,000 jobs,” says Dr Ngozwana. “Kiara Health sees these executions as part of their mission to progress the health of all on the continent, underpinned by job creation and not ‘job saving’.”

The manufacturing site previously operated on a complex and expensive legacy enterprise resource planning system. However, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, local manufacturing capability became more important than ever for new owners, Kiara Health. The company needed a system that could increase throughput by streamlining processes across business areas, and which could place greater control in the hands of the leadership team.

“We consolidated our operations on a standalone cloud-based digital platform with SAP S/4HANA Cloud,” says Dr Ngozwana. “This off-the-shelf solution gave us a flexible yet standardised system that is adaptable to our needs, allowing us to maintain best-practice. It has also future-proofed the digital foundation of our business, and enables our Industry 4.0 aspirations for the future.”

The implementation involved all Kiara Health stakeholders that are currently still involved in ensuring world-class manufacturing from the site. These experts worked in close collaboration with implementation partner Seidor Westrocon to develop a deep understanding of each department’s responsibilities, and how the SAP processes can support them.

“The transition from working in multinational company silos to operating as a team has improved our internal responsiveness and enabled significant value creation across our supply chain, procurement and manufacturing processes,” says Moosa Areff, Kiara Health Chief Operating Officer.

The implementation team streamlined Kiara Health’s procure-to-pay processes to shorten the time between order placement and goods receipt. Following the implementation, the company has reduced its days to close from eight days to one, greatly improving cash planning.

“We have tightly integrated and simplified on-time delivery processes to enable our team to get through work faster and troubleshoot with full visibility,” says Dr Ngozwana. “Each team member can diagnose any challenge to understand what is impacting production or the release of the end-product. The improved usability and support has helped us reduce the total cost of ownership by 10%, while our on-time and in-full delivery performance has improved from 80-85% to 100% – an outstanding achievement.”

Following the implementation, Kiara Health has enjoyed higher settlement discounts and improved brand reputation thanks to direct payment cycles. Costs are also contained due to greater visibility and through leveraging economies-of-scale in the procurement process.

“Our business is now more responsive as our planning and production teams are connected to our warehouse,” says Conrad Strydom, Kiara Health Head of Site . “We are also enjoying greater end-user sourcing compliance and increased savings in sourcing, in both direct and indirect spend. As a whole, the implementation of SAP S/4HANA has empowered our teams to make better decisions and improve the total performance of our business, setting us up for a bright future.”

On Kiara Health’s role in the implementation, Martin Van Wyk, Managing Director of Seidor Westrocon says the collaboration was first class. “The Kiara Health and Seidor Westrocon teams worked unwaveringly during the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, and pulled off the project and go-live together. The contribution from the Kiara Health leadership team, with their deep understanding of their business operations, extensive process knowledge and SAP expertise, was a considerable game-changer, making this mammoth task achievable. A big thank you to this team.”

Cameron Beveridge, Regional Director for Southern Africa at SAP, says Kiara Health has reduced complexity in its environment through greater control across its operations. “By building its operations on the powerful S/4HANA digital platform, Kiara Health has achieved immediate business benefits while enabling greater future innovation and easing the process of integrating Industry 4.0 innovations. Transforming its total operations in a mere four months with no impact on product or service delivery is a great accomplishment by Kiara Health and its implementation partner Seidor Westrocon.”

www.kiarahealth.com

www.sap.com

Tony Blair Institute and Oracle Launch Africa vaccine management in the cloud

The Tony Blair Institute (TBI) and Oracle have brought cloud technology to Africa to manage public health programs.

Initially, Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone will use the new Oracle Health Management System to create electronic health records for their vaccination programs for yellow fever, HPV, polio, measles, and COVID-19, as soon as that vaccine is distributed to Africa.

 TBI and Oracle are in discussions with more than thirty other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America that are evaluating using the same cloud system to manage their COVID-19 vaccination programs. 

“Since February of this year, the Africa Union and Member States have worked tirelessly together to address the impact of COVID-19 on the continent,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, partnerships such as this one with Oracle, TBI and various governments are critical to the strengthening of Member State public health institutions, not only to incorporate innovative technology but to proactively and urgently harmonize the collection and sharing of important testing data across the continent.”

TBI has been providing policy advice and hands-on support to African governments as they tackle complex COVID-19 challenges. To address these challenges, TBI partnered with Oracle to deliver cloud technology to digitize and unify national health data starting with the management of vaccinations. The Oracle Health Management System creates an electronic health record in a cloud database for every person as they are vaccinated. This highly-secure system can be quickly configured to interoperate with each country’s existing technology and meet their most stringent data sovereignty requirements. Participating countries will have access and support for the system, free of charge, for the next ten years.

“This is an immensely exciting and potentially ground-breaking initiative for recording information on all disease vaccinations and treatments in African nations,” said Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of TBI and the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. “Though Africa has coped well with COVID-19, it still needs to be part of international efforts to control the disease, including for international travel. That means vaccination of at least a significant portion of the population, requiring the highest quality data system so that everyone’s vaccine experience is recorded. Oracle can provide that system with data securely stored and owned by each country and is prepared to do so as part of a global philanthropic partnership.

We will be living with COVID-19 for some years, and the recording of data will be vital in managing its impact and spread. And one thing is clear from this crisis: applying new technology solutions has applications for the digitization of the entire economy and is crucial for the acceleration of African development. This initiative is a great test case, and my Institute is proud to be part of it.” 

“The Oracle Health Management System is currently being used by the U.S. government and large healthcare and research organizations to monitor COVID-19 patient symptoms, responses to treatments, and to screen volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials,” said Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison. “By working with Tony and his team over a period of a few months, we were able to deliver the exact same 21st century cloud technology to Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. This is the first time vaccine data has been stored in a cloud database on a national scale. Africa is leading the way.”

Ghana is now using the system to manage its yellow fever vaccine program and will follow with COVID-19 once that vaccine is distributed in Africa.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said, “We have learned many lessons from this pandemic. The most obvious is that we have to urgently fortify our public health systems. This strategic partnership with Oracle and TBI is evidence of our drive to digitalize Ghana’s health systems for our people’s benefit.”

“The move from Ghana’s current paper-based vaccination campaign records to digital data management using the Oracle platform will enable our data to be easily accessible by authorized persons. The data will be more secure, and there will be no worry about lost cards as people travel,” added Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Expanded Programme on Immunization, Ghana Health Service.

Rwanda has prepared its system to support its HPV vaccine administration as soon as secondary schools reopen, with plans to support COVID-19 vaccinations and an immunity pass for citizens in the future.

President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame called for a resilient health system as the best defense against future pandemics: “A COVID-19 vaccine will be a critical tool, and Africa must be able to access to its fair share of a vaccine once it is available. This partnership will deliver an innovative digital vaccine e-registry that signals the continent’s readiness to deploy the vaccine and to safely reopen our economies to trade and tourism.”

Sierra Leone is preparing to use the system to create digital vaccination records when its next routine Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) campaign begins. EPI is a global initiative to vaccinate for polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pertussis, measles, and tetanus. It is estimated to prevent two to three million childhood deaths globally each year from these diseases. Sierra Leone’s EPI program reportedly covers 95% of eligible children in that country.

Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Education of Sierra Leone, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, noted, “The Government of Sierra Leone is committed to utilizing technology and innovation – digitizing services to improve service delivery for its citizens. Using our experience from Ebola, we were able to put together a robust National COVID-19 Response plan, which has technology, data, and innovation as core enablers. This collaboration with Oracle and TBI is significant not only for dealing with COVID-19 and broader health needs, such as EPI vaccinations but will be a key step in our country’s mission of digitization for all.”

As countries begin vaccinating people for COVID-19, the Oracle Health Management System can be used to automatically create an electronic health record for every person vaccinated.  Once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, the Oracle Health Management System will track immunizations and provide recipients with a Digital Quick Response (QR) code. These QR codes will help Africa reopen its borders and economies by providing citizens the proof of immunization needed to move freely for work and travel.

www.institute.global

www.oracle.com

[Nigeria] eHealth Africa leverages Amazon Web Services cloud solutions to bolster operations

eHealth Africa, a non-profit organization that designs and implements digital health solutions in West Africa is leveraging on Amazon Web Services, AWS, cloud’s expertise which is designed to support every stage of their business in order to increase their chances of continuing their mission.

AWS has been working with health care providers in Africa to innovate, build new products and services and launch new applications.  

“As a small team and self-funded startup, we needed to move fast and couldn’t afford to waste development resources on infrastructure maintenance. AWS has so far offered managed solutions of almost everything we need. We are continuously surprised how well AWS services can work together, compared to having more infrastructure, as a service provider. Services which would normally require manual installation, maintenance and configuration are now easily set up on the console, “said Kobus Smit, CEO and founder of eHealth Africa.

Enterprises of larger scales typically have the budget for sophisticated technologies to streamline their business processes and expand their technological advantage. Cloud computing however enables the smallest of businesses to effortlessly access the reliable power of this innovative technology and rapidly grow.

Leveraging the right solutions and services enables companies such as eHealth to experiment with technologies that may otherwise be out of reach and expand their operations into the communities they target.

For eHealth Africa AWSprovides unrivalled levels of security, data protection, and compliance which is paramount to us as an organization that processes and stores large volumes of client data – bringing stakeholders peace of mind that their data is secure across all our digital platforms.

 In addition to leveraging AWS services such as Amazom ECS Fargate for its backend coupled with Amazon Lambda, the arrival of the AWS Africa (Cape Town) Region allows the company to deliver an enhanced service to its clients with reduced latency, ease of localised deployment, and simplifies their data protection requirements.

This has produced an ideal synergy of information technology and logistics and is the reason why a major objective of eHealth Africa has always been to host on and benefit from the use of AWS products.

To balance the need to protect health care data with the desire to innovate quickly, companies such as e-Health Africa look to embrace hybrid IT solutions that maintain control over existing network environments while using cloud technology to extend their services to underserved communities with tools to lead healthier lives.

AWS will therefore remain firmly on track to enhance eHealth’s capabilities and ensure they keep pace with the digital transformation that is a necessity for the growth of businesses across the continent.

www.ehealthafrica.org

aws.amazon.com

Data management, security driving global healthcare cloud market, report

Global healthcare cloud market revenue is expected to surge at a compound annual growth rate of 25.1 per cent from 2018 to 2023 according to a recent report by Research and Markets.

Cloud computing in healthcare is gaining momentum as a variety of factors create a significant need for the value propositions that a successful cloud implementation promises to offer.

Cloud computing involves the use of external suppliers of infrastructure, platforms, and software. As a result, former capital expenses or owned software systems are transitioned to a service offered by a cloud provider or participants within a cloud service provider’s ecosystem.

The study focuses on cloud services that are used by providers and other healthcare stakeholders seeking to manage clinical and business workflows and reduce certain costs associated with the data-rich global healthcare environment.

The study reviewed the significant drivers that are propelling cloud computing in healthcare. For example, the data flow resulting from digital health systems will transform healthcare into a Big Data environment. This trend will include data from telehealth and increasingly from consumer-generated remote monitoring systems. There is a consistent view across the industry that healthcare providers are eager to take advantage of the cloud, but this is offset by the reality that careful planning and diligence must be performed in order to ensure that the configuration of the selected cloud implementation is the correct path forward.

 Also challenging is the fact that providers are finding it difficult to staff the IT cloud management experts needed to ensure a smooth transition from in-house systems. The transition to usage-based cloud services must be well planned to avoid the potential for higher-than-anticipated costs.

For example, the migration of data from internal data centers to cloud services can be complicated, depending on the systems involved. There is also the ever-present need to maintain data security and patient privacy.

Cloud computing offers a compelling financial proposition for healthcare providers. By utilizing the infrastructure of a cloud service provider, healthcare providers should be able to achieve increased scalability and reduce their IT costs. In addition, the use of software-as-a-service will relieve medical staff from time-intensive management of various software-related maintenance and update functions.

The study also reviews the potential for the healthcare cloud to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and advanced data analytics.

The evolving healthcare cloud will increase the potential for data system interoperability across the healthcare industry. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the cloud will be the growth of a new generation of ecosystems that will revolutionize the way that clinical and operational data can be used to support improved patient outcomes and customer relationship management.

 Although a great deal of media attention is devoted to tracking familiar cloud market leaders such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, this report will identify and summarize the activities of key participants of the emerging healthcare cloud ecosystem.

This dynamic ecosystem will be the catalyst of new growth opportunities for specialized service suppliers across the global healthcare industry.

www.researchandmarkets.com

Healthcare cloud computing market to reach $40 billion by 2026, report

The healthcare cloud computing market is poised to reach $40 billion by 2026, growing at an annual rate of 14 per cent over forecast period 2019 to 2026 according to a report by Acumen Research and Consulting.

Cloud computing in healthcare increases the efficiency of the industry, while decreasing costs. Cloud computing makes medical record-sharing easier and safer, automates backend operations and even facilitates the creation, and maintenance of, telehealth apps.

The growing demand-supply gap in the healthcare industry has led to increased need for IT, boosting the adoption of cloud computing in this industry. Moreover, technologically advanced healthcare infrastructure, especially the hospitals in developed economies, is one of the key factors impelling market demand.

With rising population and volume of patient information, integration of data and having real-time access has become the need of the hour. Increase in investments by several private and public organizations in healthcare IT infrastructure is also one of the factors expected to positively impact growth in the near future.

www.acumenresearchandconsulting.com