There are strong indications that with the adoption of the 5G internet network, Nigeria can save as much as 1.45 trillion naira ($ 2.56 billion) lost annually to medical tourism, LEADERSHIP Weekend has learned. .
It was then that experts allayed the initial fears of many Nigerians that using the 5G network could increase the risk of cancer and other negative effects.
Market watchers have said that adopting the 5G network is expected to improve the country’s health services and telehealth, thereby keeping a large chunk of the annual medical expenses Nigerians incur abroad in the economy.
As health services improve, it appears that more Nigerians will start attending health facilities across the country, thus limiting capital flight and increasing income generation through increased contribution of health sector income to the country. GDP of the country.
According to a review of the Central Bank’s balance of payments data, Nigerians have spent $ 11.01 billion on health-related services abroad in the past 10 years, between 2011 and the first quarter of 2021, recording the highest in 2019 at $ 2.56 billion. (N1.45trn) overseas health spending, and the least in 2016 at $ 17 million.
Likewise, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) said that the huge sums spent on medical tourism were spent on four key specialties: oncology, orthopedics, nephrology and cardiology,
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) also revealed that the composite consumer price index for health jumped 15.8% year-on-year in May 2021, after hitting a ten-year high in April. 2021 at 15.9%. Urban health inflation also skyrocketed to 16.7%, while rural health inflation fell to 15.1% in May 2021.
Experts, who spoke with LEADERSHIP, said the 5G network and its features can transform and improve the health system in Nigeria in several ways, including telehealth which has the potential to meet the needs of patients and providers. accurately, efficiently, conveniently and cost effectively.
According to a report from PwC, the potential of 5G stems from the fact that its technical attributes represent a leap forward compared to its predecessor, 4G.
5G, according to the report, is capable of reaching speeds around 100 times faster than 4G, while handling many more connections. These advantages are enhanced by ultra-low latency, the time it takes for the network to process a request.
Product manager, MeCure Smart, Ajinkya Shekar, said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumers to show considerable interest in the health and safety of their families first and to adopt innovative ways to interact in these unprecedented times.
Shekar said that access to quality and safe health care is simply the most important need, not only for Nigerians but for citizens of all countries of the world, adding that telemedicine is now an effective means. to treat patients during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Shekar said, âWe hope that through this initiative (rollout of 5G) everyone in Nigeria will have immediate access to quality and affordable health care that is also safe for COVID.
âThe demand for telemedicine has increased exponentially since the pandemic took hold. The change in behavior has been nothing short of dramatic. Now, patients prefer remote consultations and only visit clinics if absolutely necessary for testing. This provides a very safe and efficient environment for doctors and patients to run health care.
âWhen we launched MeCure Smart in April 2019, we were just conducting an experiment: is the Nigerian market ready for healthcare services through a digital platform. As of February 2020, we were no longer able to handle the call volume. The scale and demand for telemedicine services is overwhelming today. Therefore, we have decided to partner with HelloDoc, âhe added.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, Chinenye Mba-Uzuokwu, president of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), said the benefits of 5G can help boost the healthcare sector when adopted by health practitioners.
According to Mba-Uzuokwu, 4G has been deployed in Nigeria for years, but it has not improved the health sector because it has not been adopted.
â5G is undoubtedly great, but needs to be embraced by all Nigerians so that we can see its impacts on the economy. To achieve this, the government must formulate an adoption strategy for all sectors of the economy, âhe said.
By next year, ISPON chairman said, financial institutions will start rolling out 5G in their systems, although he has recommended that the government consider how it will deploy the network in public hospitals. and schools, to improve the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots.
âWe are currently using 4G, but has it been able to improve the lives of Nigerians? The answer is no! 4G has not improved the health system, the education sector and the well-being of Nigerians as it should.
âFor example, can someone in Badagry, Lagos, talk to their doctor at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) without traveling for miles? Again, the answer is no. But if 5G is rolled out in our public hospitals, like primary care centers, poor people can access health services from the comfort of their own homes. This is what we call telehealth, âhe added.
To finance this project, Mba-Uzuokwu advised the government to use part of the Universal Service Delivery Fund (USPF) to provide communication services to underserved areas.
â10% of the profits of all telecommunications companies go to the USPF. Part of this fund is expected to be invested in projects that will ensure that people living in areas with poor connectivity benefit from 5G.
âThe government can deploy part of the funds to establish connectivity in public hospitals and schools, so that the poor masses can benefit. This is the only way for vulnerable people to benefit from 5G, âhe added.
In a similar vein, the former chairman of the Nigeria Internet Registration Authority, the Rev. Sunday Folayan told LEADERSHIP Weekend that with the rollout of 5G, healthcare professionals can leverage the network to expand telehealth across the country to improve patient care.
Folayan said the COVID-19 pandemic has made Nigerians understand the importance of 4G, adding that âwe are able to host meetings via zoom and work remotely etc. thanks to 4G. We have not felt the negative impact of the pandemic on businesses. The 5G network has more potential than 4G. We need to think about how we can use it to improve Nigeria’s economy, inclusive health sector. “
Meanwhile, despite the many benefits of 5G, some Nigerians have worried about the network’s health implications.
A chemicals seller at Ojota Market in Lagos, Joseph Ekenne, was one of many Nigerians fearful of 5G.
He told LEADERSHIP Weekend that he was initially skeptical of 5G technology due to the rumor surrounding the technology.
âPeople say it can cause cancer just by calling on a 5G phone,â Ekenne added.
To allay the fears of most Nigerians, Communication and Digital Economy Minister Dr Isa Pantami said the decision to deploy the 5G network followed a thorough investigation, research and trial, exempting him from posing a threat to safety or health.
âWe have set up a technical team that has hosted security, health and environment institutions and the public sector so that we can be on the same page. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have so far confirmed that the deployment of 5G does not cause any adverse health effects, âPantami said.
The President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Eng. Ike Nnamani, said that it has been proven that there are no negative health implications of 5G.
For his part, Domineum Blockchain Solutions Limited co-founder Mohammed Ibrahim Jega said that while the rumors will still be there, Nigerians should research 5G technology to disillusion their minds and only then can they figure it out. the benefits of 5G.
âYes, the technology has pros and cons, but in the case of 5G, it has no health implications,â Jega added.
Jega, also founder of Startup Arewa, said technology is changing and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind.
âWe have to tap into what’s going on in the world. We must take this opportunity. Nigeria is one of the largest users of technology in Africa. Many of us use 5G phones and we need to have a 5G network, âhe added.
MTN Nigeria Managing Director Karl Toriola said: âWe have conducted 5G trials with the authorities and are very happy with the results of the trial.