Lack of funding and the information gap between the communities and health innovators have been highlighted as one of the great challenges hindering the formation of a resilient healthcare system in Uganda through innovation.
While speaking during the 4th Health Innovation Conference at Serena Hotel on Monday, Chris Lukolyo, the Digital County Lead at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) noted that financing healthcare innovations is still a big challenge since sources of finances are very rare due to competition in needs.
He noted that at times financers struggle with overly risky innovations because there is no proven concept, no data collected and research which makes it hard for innovators to get funders.
“Therefore, with our work we have been able to gather information and viability, efficiency and acceptance within communities and these are all aspects that any new innovation has to deal with before a bank can extend a loan to the innovator with a new idea, concept or application they need to able to understand that idea and its viability as a business, it’s acceptance within the communities and sustainability,” Mr. Lukolyo said.
He added that because of such challenges that is why UNCDF is focusing very much on improving access to finance and making that capital impactful.
“We work with partners to make sure that we can demonstrate the utility of these innovations so that we can attract others to come in and support because you need to do that to achieve sustainability. The good thing is there is an enabling policy by the government of Uganda because that too contributes to sustainability.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Uganda,H.E Natalie E. Brown said there is a need to embrace innovations in the health care system because it’s the way to go. She noted such conferences are of a valuable opportunity to collectively take stock of what is being innovated in different spheres and share experiences that will ultimately improve the quality of care that can be provided in Uganda.
“All of us benefit daily from innovations in technology and the creative solutions which put these innovations at our fingertips. A great example is the adaptation of multimedia communication tools for fast and efficient communications on health. Look at WhatsApp and its competitors. It is amazing how these platforms have been used to communicate on COVID-19 and now Ebola, in some cases “leapfrogging” over more standard approaches. These innovations make us more effective and more efficient while legacy tools including email, phone calls and face-to-face interactions like we have today remain important,” H.E Natalie said.
She also noted that the costs of these innovations present a greater challenge to universal access to health services, especially to vulnerable and geographically inaccessible populations who most need to benefit from these innovations.
“More pleasing perhaps is the fact that you will also be exploring frameworks for the adoption of innovations as well as strengthening partnerships and collaborations for resilient healthcare systems. This will enable us to extend the benefits of these innovations to more people, at a lower cost, and at the appropriate scale. Equity, cost savings and prevention should be our priority. As we explore and come up with many commendable innovations, they are not always available equally across populations due to issues with cost and access.”
Dr Andrew Kambugu, the Executive Director of Infectious Disease Institute Makerere University, revealed that as a way of supporting innovations, currently, the government is funding innovation at Makerere University and through it, a lot has been achieved.
He however noted that the information gap between the innovator and the end users of the product is still a big challenge.
“Innovations must be people-centred because one has to meet people’s needs. We can do this by harnessing the information systems like how MPEESA has changed the finance and information system in Kenya. Health care has an opportunity to change this by innovations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the 4th annual Innovations Conference is a two-day conference aimed at harnessing new, emerging, and capable technologies to improve access to quality healthcare in Uganda and the region.
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