Can technological advances enable a new era of patient-centric healthcare that goes beyond the boundaries of healthcare providers and extends to patients’ homes?

Photo by Lynette van der Bijl

This dynamic is already unfolding in the global healthcare sector, says Nazia Pillay, Partner Head at SAP Africa – and Africa isn’t far behind.

“The emergence of patient-centric healthcare holds immense promise for better patient experiences, greater accessibility, and improved healthcare outcomes,” says Pillay. “Supported by rapid advances in a range of complementary technologies and driven by a growing need to expand healthcare access, the adoption of patient-centric healthcare models represents the next step in the evolution of healthcare provision.”

Flipping the healthcare model

Until now, healthcare service models have required that patients navigate through often-complex systems to receive diagnoses, treatment and medical advice. Patient-centric healthcare reimagines this dynamic, building systems around the needs and preferences of the patient and prioritising the quality of their experience.

A 2021 report by KPMG found that 79% of healthcare CEOs believed the sector needed to take a more patient-centric approach in order to better respond to patient needs and preferences. However, only 31% rated their organisation’s ability to do so as ‘excellent’.

“A patient-centric healthcare approach prioritises elements such as patient experience and multi-dimensional team engagement, leading to a more holistic patient engagement, explains Johann Joubert, CEO at Converge Solutions. “This approach also makes healthcare more accessible and affordable as the patient can receive expert services in the comfort of their homes. Home-based patient-centric healthcare also benefits the whole ecosystem as the hospital bed becomes available to patients who require more intensive care, while the overall cost of healthcare delivery can be driven downward.”

He adds that, to achieve this, healthcare providers must consider what might be viewed as non-conventional investments in technology to drive innovation across patient-centric operations. “The healthcare system, for valid reasons, is slow to innovate, but we cannot stagnate. The future of healthcare must be different, if we want better patient outcomes and more affordable and accessible healthcare services.”

Healthcare access reaches patients’ homes

Global healthcare providers are increasingly shifting to home-based care models that provide primary, acute and palliative care at the patient’s home.

“Home-based care represents a golden opportunity to improve the quality of care while also lowering healthcare costs,” says Joubert. “The world is not as it was twelve months ago. Rapid advances in a range of enabling technologies such as AI, connectivity and device mobility have already set new thresholds of digital possibilities. What was science fiction two years ago, will be mainstream in the next twenty-four months.”

Joubert adds that, in his view, connected intelligence and microservices is the way of the future. “To try and do everything yourself would put you at a disadvantage. Instead, we hand-pick our partners and then combine the expertise of each partner to ensure rapid, relevant, affordable healthcare solutions with tangible value.”

Pillay adds: “Healthcare providers are increasingly adopting powerful new technologies ranging from advanced analytics to cloud capabilities, as well as a range of tools to improve planning, human capital management, financial processes and CRM-based technologies to enable the delivery of personalised healthcare. Over the next few years, the focus is likely to shift slightly to include emerging technologies that enable home-based care and diagnosis, such as AI and machine vision.”

Technology building blocks for improved healthcare

A McKinsey study noted the growing impact of several technologies on healthcare systems and services, including Generative AI to boost productivity and content development, applied AI to improve classification, prediction and control within health processes, and digital trust technologies that ensures that trust is maintained throughout patient experiences.

However, to achieve this, healthcare providers will need to lay the technological foundation that will enable the integration of new healthcare innovations.

“The digital transformation of the healthcare industry at a global level is being enabled across a range of patient-centric technologies, spanning from improved healthcare data and analytics to smart healthcare operations and greater empowerment of healthcare workers,” says Pillay. “The outcomes of this transformation can be felt across patient engagement, patient diagnosis and the broader patient experience, as well as providers’ ability to convert health data into health insights to drive improved patient outcomes. And considering the acute skills shortage throughout the continent’s health sector, the use of technology to drive better employee experiences and improve talent retention is immensely valuable.”

Growing evidence for patient-centric model

According to Joubert, the evidence for a more patient-centric healthcare model is clear. “We survey more than fifty thousand patients every month and their feedback confirms that patients want more curated information, more medical worker engagement and rapid responses to questions. It is not only about the patient though. Healthcare is a collective effort and as much as our focus is on patient outcomes, this means we need to take the nursing community on the journey with us. Informed and knowledgeable collaboration is critical.”

Joubert points to the rapid recent advances in AI as an opportunity for the healthcare sector, with Generative AI becoming ‘mainstream’ just more than a year ago. “At the moment there are multiple schools of thought. Some argue that we are entering a ‘trough of disillusionment’, where we will realise AI is not the answer to every problem. Others argue that we are only now at very advent of the exponential AI explosion that will erupt over the next twelve to twenty-four months. I believe both views hold merit. AI is certainly not the answer to every problem. As in the case of IoT over the last couple of years, we will get smarter in how we apply the technology and, most importantly, how we do so in an ethical manner.”

He adds that the healthcare sector must embrace digital capabilities or risk becoming irrelevant in the next five years. “The healthcare industry, by virtue of erring on the side of caution and being highly regulated, typically steers away from disruption or transformation. But unless the healthcare providers embrace digital capabilities and explore the best applications of technology to improve healthcare outcomes, they won’t survive the years ahead.”



materially differ. Additional information regarding these risks and uncertainties may be found in our filings