Clock Ticking for Digital Transformation of Africa’s Healthcare Sector


The African healthcare sector is in a process of rapid digital transformation as the impact of the pandemic and changing patient needs push healthcare providers to adapt.

According to World Economic Forum data, digital investments in the healthcare sector nearly doubled to $57-billion in 2021, with telehealth and mental health leading the pack.

Nazia Pillay, Partner Head at SAP Africa, says new technology capabilities can transform healthcare operations and improve the overall patient experience while driving higher-quality patient outcomes. “Leading healthcare providers are enhancing their data strategies and leveraging advanced technologies to deliver quality, personalised healthcare to patients, whether at healthcare facilities or at home.”

End of an era

The global healthcare sector is in a state of flux amid growing digitalisation, new scientific advancements, heightened expectations for positive patient experiences and skills constraints.

According to Johann Joubert, CEO at Converge Solutions, African healthcare organisations have a golden opportunity to invest in technology capabilities today that will drive their success and growth for years to come. “The healthcare sector is faced with unique challenges as growing digitalisation drives greater operational efficiency while unlocking new forms of patient care. Amid a shift to more personalised healthcare engagements and the need to improve the overall patient experience, healthcare providers will increasingly seek innovative technologies and solutions to facilitate the delivery of high-quality health outcomes.”

One of the forces driving change in the African healthcare sector is that support for the widely-used SAP i.s.h. and i.s.h.med healthcare technology platforms will end in four years. SAP technologies support more than 7 000 healthcare providers across 88 countries.

Best-practices drive operational efficiency

“Healthcare providers need to ensure that all systems and patient records are retained, are reliable and are providing actionable, real-time intelligence that support better quality and predictable outcomes,” explains Joubert. “This also creates an opportunity that healthcare providers simply should not miss. By looking beyond their immediate business-as-usual needs and investing in platforms that enable rapid innovation, healthcare providers could completely transform the quality of care, the patient experience, and their business models. The sustainable healthcare enterprise of the future needs to rethink their value proposition, underpinned with platforms that support differentiation, not just at process level, but also in the way that hospitals generate revenue.”

To support the digital transformation efforts of healthcare providers, Converge Solutions has developed a fully-integrated end-to-end technology platform covering the entire healthcare value chain. Built to integrate seamlessly with SAP S/4HANA and leveraging the scalability and flexibility of the cloud, Maisha is designed to make it easier for providers to deliver high-quality, affordable and repeatable healthcare outcomes.

“Hospitals are under pressure to substantially reduce their operational costs while making better use of their resources to deliver benefits to shareholders, patients and internal stakeholders,” says Joubert. “By adopting best practices and leveraging the power of the cloud, providers can streamline their operations and achieve significant cost savings. The scalability of the cloud also allows providers to develop new capabilities at their own pace, enabling extended or diversified revenue streams into domains such as home-based care, while improving the quality of health outcomes for patients.”

Digital capabilities protect against disruption

One of the risks associated with the growing digitalisation in the sector is that healthcare providers are prime targets for cyberattacks. One report found that healthcare organisations experienced more than 1 400 attacks every week in 2022, a 60% year-on-year increase. And in part due to the wealth of personal information stored in patient records, the sector also has the highest data breach cost of any industry at over $10-million per breach.

“Modern healthcare technology platforms such as Maisha integrate best-practice cybersecurity standards to protect sensitive patient data and critical healthcare systems from compromise and attack,” explains Joubert. “Inventory management and finance data will typically reside in SAP’s Public Cloud, while all POPIA-sensitive data will be stored in Maisha in a secure data centre within the specific country, accessible only through multi-factor authentication and ensuring data sovereignty at all times.”

Pillay says the introduction of GROW with SAP also gives healthcare providers a clear path to migrating their core ERP and business processes to the cloud. “Healthcare providers can leverage an extensive set of industry best-practices, automation tools, AI-powered business processes and managed cloud infrastructure to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and achieve a future-fit state more quickly. By prioritising the development of new tech-enabled capabilities, healthcare providers can build future-fit business models that deliver benefits throughout the healthcare value chain while maintaining cost-efficiency and profitability throughout.”