Biometrics to Enable African Healthcare System Leapfrog

There has been an increasing adoption of digital technology by African governments to improve the healthcare system where biometrics plays a major role in the identification of individuals and securing patients information.

Africa biometric healthcare

For a long time, the system has become overload with bulky paper-based management which led to many consequences. South Africa-based Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest medical facility on the African continent, has suffered setbacks over the years. Mismanagement of medical files has at times resulted in the dispensing of wrong medicines and dosages, leaving patients at risk of worsening infections and at times, even death. Fortunately, these challenges could be overcome through a biometric-based healthcare which will help build an effective, streamlined healthcare system and assure the right patient will receive the right medicine.

In South Africa, according to the Healthcare Forensic Management Unit (HFMU), medical aids lose between R9 billion ~ R19 billion (0.75 billion USD ~ 1.6 billion USD) every year due to fraud, abuse and waste. Fraudulent crime has become a serious problem in balancing social budgets and providing affordable, quality healthcare to all Africans. With biometrics, medical facilities and insurance can eliminate completely record duplications and prevent future forgeries and identity thefts. The patients’ medical records will be kept securely and only be shared among internal staffs.

According to media, Joburg public clinics have decided to ditch the paper-based patient forms and documents in favor of a digital system in 2016. Its aim is to improve turnaround times, services, record keeping and overall patient care, by ensuring that no matter which hospital or clinic a patient is admitted to, health care workers will be able to easily access their records. Patients simply have their biometric data and personal information registered on the system. Their correct medical records can be accessed via a biometric system which will unlock their details using fingerprints. The solution aims to improve patient safety, data integrity by preventing duplicate medical records, fraud, and patient identification errors.

Since 2009, there have been successful implementations using biometric technology in healthcare and insurance sectors all over Africa like VaxTrac (Electronic Vaccination Record and Tracking system in Sierra Leone, 2016), Malian national health insurance (2012), Gabon national health insurance (2009), Kenya HIV Patients’ Biometric Registration (2015), etc. These projects have made remarkable impacts in reducing fraudulent claims using identity theft, eliminating patient misidentification and mistreatment, and increasing operation efficiency.

The mobile phone penetration in Africa has also encouraged the implementation of digital health technologies pan Africa. With over two-thirds of Africa’s most populous country having a mobile phone subscription, Nigeria holds large potential to expand mobile health applications. Biometric built-in smartphone or low-cost biometric scanner connected to mobile phones can be used as a robust solution to enable a digital healthcare system and help the healthcare services reach more people.

Upcoming in April, there will be an annual meeting on digital identity in Nigeria. Besides national ID, eHealth system is also a key topic which is received a lot of concerns. IriTech with its top-notch iris recognition solutions yet very cost-effective will be exhibiting at booth A1. We would welcome all attendees to visit our booth for a live demonstration of our innovative solutions which have been used by UNHCR (UN Agency for Refugee), US Government, India and Kenya government as well. We are proud to be part of ID4Africa movement. For more information, kindly visit us at: