From in-depth discussions on AI’s role in healthcare to advancements in telemedicine, our programme delves into the forefront of digital health innovations. Engage with experts and explore the future of healthcare technology through our comprehensive and exciting conference schedule.

Day 1 // Friday - 23 February, 2024

The first day is structured to provide a comprehensive overview of how digital health technologies are being implemented and utilised across different sectors in Africa. Discussions involve regulators, industry leaders, and healthcare providers, focusing on digital health strategies, advances, and practical applications in clinical practice.

Registration

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

In-person delegates will meet in the lobby to get their badges and tea before the day begins.

Keynote / Welcome Address

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Chairperson: Kanshukan Rajaratnam

  • Tulio de Oliveira

    Applying and developing big data analysis for genomics in the 21st century

    Summary: 

    Tulio, a leading expert in genomic surveillance and data analysis, discusses the crucial role his team played in South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By quickly analyzing the first genome of the new pathogen and investigating hospital outbreaks, they developed guidelines to prevent further spread. Throughout the pandemic, Tulio’s team monitored the emergence of new variants, such as Beta and Omicron, and communicated their findings to government officials and health organizations to guide response measures. Tulio emphasizes the importance of combining various types of digital data and using advanced analysis methods to effectively respond to the pandemic in real-time. Despite challenges, such as limited vaccine access and strict lockdowns, South Africa made significant scientific contributions to the global fight against COVID-19.

    Key points:

    • Tulio’s team quickly developed software to analyze the first genome of the new pathogen within 11 days of its release.
    • They investigated the first COVID-19 hospital outbreak in South Africa, determining it was caused by a single strain introduced by one individual.
    • The team monitored the emergence of new variants, such as Beta and Omicron, and communicated their findings to guide pandemic response measures.
    • Combining genomic, epidemiological, and patient movement data is crucial for effective real-time analysis and response.
    • South Africa faced challenges, such as limited vaccine access and strict lockdowns, but made significant scientific contributions to the global fight against COVID-19.

    Q&A:

    Question: How did South Africa’s response to the Omicron variant compare to its response to the Delta variant?

    Answer: Tulio explained that South Africa’s response to the Omicron variant was more successful than its response to the Delta variant. The Delta variant was discovered much later and at a time when the country lacked access to vaccines. In contrast, the Omicron variant was discovered quickly, and South Africa had one of the lowest hospitalization and death rates during the Omicron wave. This success was attributed to high population immunity from previous infections and vaccinations, improved knowledge of patient care, and early discovery of the variant. Tulio also highlighted the expertise of African infectious disease specialists, nurses, doctors, and scientists, emphasizing that if the world recognizes and invests in this strength, African countries can help protect the world against future epidemics and pandemics.

    Tulio de Oliveira Biography

The State of Digital Health for Global Good

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

This session explores how digital health initiatives are impacting global health, with a focus on strategies and outcomes. It includes insights from government officials, policymakers, and global health leaders.

Chairperson: Colin Pillai

  • Nicholas Crisp

    Keynote: Making Equity and Social Solidarity a Reality in Healthcare

    Summary: 

    Nicholas discussed South Africa’s journey towards implementing a national health insurance system to achieve universal health coverage and equitable access to quality healthcare for all citizens. He emphasized the critical role of digital solutions and an integrated digital platform in enabling this ambitious undertaking. The talk covered the key components, registries, and change management aspects involved in building this system.

    Key points:

    • The objective is to provide every citizen with access to the healthcare they need without incurring financial hardship, using digital developments to enhance this goal.
    • Key elements include a shared electronic health record, large registries (patient, provider, facility), and interoperable systems to enable a comprehensive patient record accessible by providers.
    • The legal framework, governance, data security and privacy are crucial considerations in the design and implementation.
    • Change management is complex, involving changes to patient and provider journeys, communication, and capacity building.
    • The National Health Insurance bill provides guidance on the digital aspects, aiming to create efficiencies, reduce costs and risks through an integrated approach.
    • Barriers include ideological differences, resource constraints, and the need for inclusivity and co-creation with all stakeholders.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: What have been the main barriers or pushback faced in developing the system?

    Answer: Barriers include ideological differences between privileged and poor populations, resource constraints, and the need to bring everyone along in the process through co-creation and considering existing smaller projects.

    Question 2: How do you envision AI and digital literacy at the community level for this system?

    Answer: The key is to translate complex medical and technical terms into lay language that the public can easily understand, using communication experts to convey information on entitlements and health aspects in an accessible manner, while providing more detailed professional information to healthcare providers.

    Nicholas Crisp Biography

  • Christelna Reynecke

    Digital Transformation of African National Regulatory Authorities

    Summary: 

    Christelna discussed the importance and benefits of digital transformation for African national regulatory authorities (NRAs). She emphasized the role of data standards, such as IDMP and GS1, in facilitating interoperability, efficiency, and collaboration among NRAs. Christelna also highlighted the significance of digitalization in supporting the enablement of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) and enhancing access to safe and effective medicines for the African population.

    Key points:

    • Digital transformation enhances efficiency, transparency, accountability, compliance monitoring, and data-driven decision-making for NRAs.
    • Key considerations for digital transformation include infrastructure and connectivity, capacity building, data security and privacy, stakeholder engagement, and collaboration among NRAs.
    • Data standards, such as IDMP and GS1, play a fundamental role in enabling interoperability, consistency, innovation, and global harmonization of regulatory processes.
    • Aligning IDMP and GS1 standards can enhance product identification, data harmonization, traceability, and regulatory compliance.
    • Digitalization of NRAs supports the enablement of the AMA by facilitating efficient decision-making, pharmacovigilance, regional integration, and public health initiatives.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: During COVID-19, there were remote GCP inspections. What are the pros and cons from a regulator’s perspective?

    Answer: Remote inspections using digital technologies, such as virtual reality and AI, have the potential to improve efficiency and overcome resource constraints faced by many African NRAs. However, it is essential to ensure that the quality and effectiveness of inspections are maintained while exploring these innovative approaches.

    Question 2: What platforms are available for African NRAs to collaborate and share processes and new technologies? 

    Answer: While conferences like this provide opportunities for collaboration, more structured platforms, such as the IT technical committee under the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (AMRH) initiative, are working on the digital framework to support the AMA. Bilateral relationships and memorandums of understanding between NRAs also facilitate knowledge sharing and technology transfer. However, there is still room for improvement in creating a platform for African NRAs to freely showcase and share their developments and technologies.

    Christelna Reynecke Biography

  • Daniel Ochiel

    Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based acceleration of vaccine discovery: progress and challenges

    Summary:

    Daniel’s talk focused on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and computational approaches to accelerate vaccine discovery. He highlighted the global burden of vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly in Africa, and discussed the potential of reverse vaccinology and AI-based methods to expedite the vaccine development process. Despite the progress made, Daniel emphasized the challenges and limitations in implementing these approaches in Africa, including the lack of basic science capacity, limited computational expertise, and insufficient funding.

    Key points:

    • Vaccine-preventable diseases cause over 500,000 child deaths annually in Africa, representing 58% of the global burden.
    • Traditional vaccine development is a lengthy process, often taking decades, as exemplified by the Ebola vaccine.
    • Reverse vaccinology and AI-based methods can significantly accelerate vaccine discovery by predicting antigenic targets and immune responses.
    • AI-based methods rely on high-quality, harmonized data from various sources, including clinical trials, genomics, and proteomics.
    • Limitations of AI-based vaccine discovery include data quality, privacy, security, and access issues, as well as the need for collaborative expertise in vaccinology and AI.
    • Africa faces challenges in implementing AI-based vaccine discovery due to limited basic science capacity, inadequate computational expertise, and unsustainable funding.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: How can research ethics committees address the lack of AI expertise when reviewing studies involving AI technology? 

    Answer: A consortium approach to capacity strengthening is recommended, leveraging existing expertise and experiences to train individuals across institutions, rather than relying on independent institutional efforts.

    Question 2: Where should capacity building for AI in healthcare take place, given the high turnover of AI scientists in industry and research? 

    Answer: Capacity building should be prioritized across the board, with a focus on 1) fostering collaboration between vaccinologists and AI scientists to ensure the relevance and accuracy of AI-generated insights for vaccine discovery, and 2) enhancing the understanding and appreciation of AI-based methods among regulatory authorities to facilitate the approval of reliable AI-derived products.

    Daniel Ochiel Biography

  • Nick Passey

    Overview of Global A.Catalyst, AZ ambition on driving sustainability through Digital

    Summary: 

    Nick introduced AstraZeneca’s a-Catalyst approach, which focuses on strengthening healthcare systems, improving health equity, and enhancing patient outcomes through collaboration and digital innovation. He discussed the global network of innovation hubs and the importance of creating a network effect to identify solutions, enable scaling, and drive impact across various therapeutic areas.

    Key points:

    • AstraZeneca recognizes the importance of contributing “beyond the pill” to improve patient experiences and outcomes.
    • The a-Catalyst approach involves collaborating with governments, academia, startups, and policymakers to address healthcare challenges and identify innovative solutions.
    • AstraZeneca operates more than 20 innovation hubs globally, aiming to create a network effect and share learnings, experiences, and solutions across countries.
    • The company focuses on improving equitable access, reducing carbon footprints, and creating robust healthcare ecosystems through digital solutions.
    • AstraZeneca is part of the World Economic Forum’s Edison Alliance, collaborating with startups like Qure.ai to scale lung cancer screening using AI-powered chest x-ray analysis.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Nick Passey Biography

  • Carlo Budree

    Africa Innovation Hub and how it is driving better patient outcomes through innovation

    Summary:

    Carlo discussed AstraZeneca’s initiatives across Africa, highlighting the Phakamisa initiative for early detection of non-communicable diseases and the Africa Innovation Hub, which brings together healthcare startups, government entities, and NGOs to create digital solutions. He provided examples of partnerships focused on early diagnosis, referral pathways, and capacity building in the African healthcare sector.

    Key points:

    • The Africa Innovation Hub is a dynamic community that converges to create digital solutions tailored for Africa’s unique healthcare challenges.
    • AstraZeneca has integrated AI in many of their partnerships across the African continent, mainly focusing on lung and breast cancer screening.
    • The company partnered with MedSol, a health tech startup from the University of Pretoria, to provide early access to breast cancer screening in rural communities using AI-powered ultrasound probes.
    • AstraZeneca collaborated with Qure.ai to improve lung cancer screening in South Africa using AI-powered chest x-ray analysis.
    • The company launched the first-of-its-kind HELT-KAY incubator program in partnership with Futurize to nurture early-stage university startups in Africa’s healthcare sector.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Carlo Budree Biography

Tea Break

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Refuel your mind and body with coffee, tea and light snacks.

The State of Digital Health: Innovation to Practice

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

This session explores the current landscape of digital health from private sector innovations to real-world clinical implementation. Industry leaders will showcase new technologies and tools driving healthcare transformation, while providers and researchers share insights into integration and utility in patient care settings. Bridging the gap from development to practice adoption, presenters will highlight successes, challenges, and future directions in moving digital health solutions into widespread medical use.

Chairperson: Bernd Rosenkranz

  • Noluthando Nematswerani

    Digital health technologies in South Africa - from a funder's perspective

    Summary: 

    Noluthando presented Discovery Health’s digital health ecosystem and their recently launched digital health solutions, including the Health ID app, DigiCare, and DrConnect. These solutions aim to improve access to healthcare, provide personalized experiences for members, and drive better health outcomes through digital technologies.

    Key points:

    • Discovery Health’s digital health ecosystem includes various stakeholders, devices, apps, services, and analytics capabilities.
    • The Health ID app serves as a gateway for members to manage their health portfolios and access care through the platform.
    • DigiCare provides members with access to a symptom checker, digital therapies for mental health, and virtual consultations with healthcare professionals.
    • DrConnect enables doctors to guide members through specific screenings and preventive care measures.
    • Discovery Health uses dashboards to monitor uptake, engagement, and drop-offs to continuously innovate and improve their digital health solutions.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: Can you provide statistics on the demographics of members accessing these digital solutions? 

    Answer: Utilization data shows that uptake spans various age groups, with the highest uptake among younger members. As more innovations are introduced and incentives are created, uptake continues to grow across all age groups. Noluthando offered to share additional user statistics data upon request.

    Question 2: From a health systems perspective, what do you mean by digital therapeutics being a new treatment class? 

    Answer: Digital therapeutics can be used beyond the private sector, in public health systems, to provide care at a reduced cost and address skill shortages. These evidence-based interventions can be delivered online, offering an alternative to face-to-face consultations and broadening access to care.

    Noluthando Nematswerani Biography

  • Adriaan Kruger

    Keynote: The impact of Digitising Clinical Research in Africa

    Summary:

    Adriaan discussed nuvoteQ journey in digitizing the clinical research space in Africa, focusing on their platforms for managing clinical trials, data consulting, and the Clinical Trials Community Platform (CTCP). The CTCP aims to showcase research centers and sites across Africa, making the continent more attractive for clinical research and bringing more funding to the region.

    Key points:

    • nuvoteQ has developed platforms for conducting phases 1-4 clinical trials, pharmacovigilance, and clinical trial management.
    • They have digitized ethics committees and regulatory approval processes in various African countries.
    • The Clinical Trials Community Platform (CTCP) maps research centers, trials, researchers, service providers, and laboratories across Africa to attract more clinical research funding.
    • nuvoteQ is working on driving user adoption and engagement with the CTCP to ensure data remains up-to-date.
    • The Africa CDC has endorsed the CTCP, which could potentially become part of the policy for running clinical research projects in Africa.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: How do you protect patients’ data in this research space, and how can we potentially use the commercialization of data in the patients’ interest? 

    Answer: nuvoteQ works primarily with anonymized data in the highly regulated clinical research space. They implement various technologies to ensure data security. Regarding data commercialization, Adriaan believes that patients will be incentivized to sell their medical data to pharmaceutical companies or research organizations in the future, with proper security measures and trust-building.

    Question 2: How do you keep the Clinical Trials Community Platform data up-to-date with researchers moving between institutions?

    Answer: nuvoteQ is working on driving user adoption so that clinical research professionals maintain their profiles on the platform. They are also exploring data exchange agreements with ethics committees, as they often have the most up-to-date information on researchers and research centers.

    Adriaan Kruger Biography

  • Koburongo Olivia

    Navigating the digital landscape in medtech

    Summary: 

    Olivia discussed the healthcare challenges faced in Africa, including the shortage of health workers, the lack of access to essential medical devices, and the high burden of preventable diseases. She introduced Mama-Ope Medicals’ innovative diagnostic tool for pneumonia, which uses automated technology to improve medical outcomes, efficiency, and telemedicine capabilities in low-resource settings.

    Key points:

    • Africa faces a significant shortage of healthcare workers and medical equipment, with many devices being donated but remaining non-operational due to infrastructure and maintenance challenges.
    • Mama-Ope Medicals has developed an automated diagnostic aid for pneumonia that uses vital signs to assist healthcare workers in making accurate diagnoses within 3 minutes.
    • The tool addresses the challenges of overcrowding in clinics, enables better decision-making for referrals, and aims to reduce the severity and cost of pneumonia cases.
    • Opportunities for medtech in Africa include the establishment of the African Medicines Agency, which could boost local manufacturing capacities and increase country participation in research.
    • Challenges include coordinating with different stakeholders, navigating fragmented regulatory frameworks, and addressing supply chain issues.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Koburongo Olivia Biography

  • Sharon Allen

    Promoting Global Health Equity Through Telehealth

    Summary: 

    Sharon introduced the World Telehealth Initiative (WTI)’s mission to provide sustainable medical expertise to vulnerable communities worldwide by leveraging telehealth technologies. WTI partners with low-resource clinics and hospitals, connecting them with a network of volunteer physicians who provide remote specialist care, training, and support using state-of-the-art diagnostic-enabled devices.

    Key points:

    • WTI aims to address the global healthcare crisis by providing access to medical expertise through telehealth, rather than physically sending doctors across the globe.
    • The organization collaborates with partner sites to design programs based on their specific needs, resources, and capacity.
    • WTI recruits volunteer physicians across 50+ medical specialties who can easily engage in meaningful virtual consultations and training sessions with their colleagues in underserved areas.
    • The platform supports various telehealth delivery applications, including peer-to-peer training, scheduled critical consultations, surgical mentoring, and emergent care support.
    • WTI is developing a custom platform to scale their impact, enabling hundreds of clinics and hospitals to access thousands of volunteer physicians worldwide.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: How can physicians from other countries get involved with WTI on a voluntary basis? 

    Answer: Interested physicians can create a profile on the WTI platform, indicating their specialty and qualifications. When partner sites request assistance in their specialty, volunteers receive an email and can choose to respond if they are available. WTI welcomes physicians and nurses from anywhere to join the movement.

    Question 2: What barriers does WTI face in achieving its goals, and how are they overcome?

    Answer: As a non-profit, WTI constantly faces fundraising challenges to support their efforts, ship devices, and maintain the operational team. Logistics can also be challenging when working in remote locations, but the organization has always found ways to circumvent barriers, such as enlisting the help of the Nigerian army to transport a device through an area with security risks.

    Sharon Allen Biography

  • Fathima Paruk

    Tele-ICU: Redefining and Transforming Health Care

    Summary: 

    Fathima discussed the potential of telehealth, particularly tele-ICU, in addressing the challenges faced by critical care in South Africa. She shared her experience with the tele-ICU collaboration between Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Charité University during the COVID-19 pandemic and introduced the Africa Telehealth Collaboration (ATC), which aims to promote the responsible use of telehealth in South Africa.

    Key points:

    • South Africa faces a shortage of ICU-trained specialists (intensivists) and ICU beds, with significant regional disparities in access to critical care.
    • Tele-ICU has the potential to improve patient outcomes, reduce mortality and length of stay, enhance efficiencies, and expand the teaching platform in resource-limited settings.
    • The tele-ICU collaboration between Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Charité University during the COVID-19 pandemic provided frontline worker support, maintained the education platform, and fostered bilateral learning.
    • Tele-ICU can be used for outreach to district hospitals and facilities without intensivists, helping to uplift care to best practice standards and reduce inequities.
    • The Africa Telehealth Collaboration (ATC) was formed to facilitate learning around telehealth, enhance access to cost-effective, quality care, create resources for responsible telehealth use, and support relevant research.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Fathima Paruk Biography

Lunch

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Lunch will be served outside in the Dean’s Garden.

Case Studies in Digital Health and Telemedicine

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Delving into practical applications and real-world impacts of digital health and telemedicine. This session includes case studies and discussions on patient perspectives and treatment experiences.

Chairperson: Catriona Waitt

  • Karin Steinecke

    Keynote: Telemedicine in Intensive Care - Germany and beyond

    Summary: 

    Karin shared her experience with telemedicine in intensive care, starting from the ERIC study in Germany, which explored the use of telemedicine for quality improvement in ICUs. She then discussed the impact of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of national and international telemedicine networks, and the evolution of telemedicine from a quality improvement tool to a knowledge catalyst and capacity-building platform.

    Key points:

    • The ERIC study showed significant improvement in 7 out of 8 quality indicators in ICUs using telemedicine for quality improvement.
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, the “SAVE Berlin” concept used telemedicine for high-acuity care consultations, knowledge transfer, and coordination, resulting in higher survival probability for patients receiving critical care with telemedicine support.
    • Telemedicine has been used to establish national and international networks, such as in Uzbekistan, South Africa, Ukraine, and Montenegro, for knowledge exchange, training, and capacity building.
    • The role of telemedicine has evolved from an intervention for quality improvement to a knowledge catalyst, training and teaching tool, and a platform for building multi-professional, interdisciplinary, cross-national teams.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: How do you handle regulatory approval for telemedicine approaches, and does it introduce any barriers or challenges? 

    Answer: Obtaining regulatory approval for telemedicine is a time-consuming process, and it is even more challenging in an international context. Charité is working on creating a regulatory framework that can work internationally, but it remains an ongoing process.

    Question 2: How does telemedicine work for practical specialties like surgery? 

    Answer: Charité’s telemedicine network includes critical care specialists, infectiologists, pediatricians, and traumatologists. For other specialties, cases are reviewed, and planned teleconsultations are arranged with the relevant specialists within 2-3 days, though ad hoc consultations are not yet possible.

    Karin Steinecke Biography

  • Koleka Mlisana

    NHLS (National Health Laboratory Services) experiences in digital health technologies

    Summary:

    Koleka provided an overview of the digital health technologies implemented by the NHLS, the largest pathology service provider in the South African public health sector. She discussed the organization’s use of a centralized laboratory information system (LIS), digital pathology, telepathology for training, a central data warehouse, and the challenges and opportunities associated with these technologies.

    Key points:

    • The NHLS has a single LIS that enables the collection of standardized, national-level data from all public health facilities in South Africa.
    • The organization has implemented a pre-analytical system called “eLabs” to improve specimen tracking, remote sample logging, and result delivery.
    • Digital pathology and telepathology have been explored to address the shortage of pathologists and enhance training opportunities across the country.
    • The NHLS has established a central data warehouse that facilitates research, surveillance, and evidence-based decision-making.
    • Challenges include high investment costs, data privacy and regulatory concerns, resistance to change among staff, and the need for continuous training and support.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: How have you been able to standardize laboratory data, especially with different laboratory groups in the private sector? 

    Answer: Standardizing data from the private sector was a challenge encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases) worked closely with private laboratories to identify critical variables and ensure data standardization, enabling the merging of public and private sector data.

    Question 2: What are some of the barriers you have observed in achieving your digital health goals, and how could they be overcome? 

    Answer: The main barriers include investment costs for hardware, software, and data storage; ethical and regulatory concerns, particularly around data sharing; lack of trust and confidence in technology among older staff members; fear of job losses due to automation; and the need for ongoing training and support. Addressing these barriers requires collaboration, partnerships, and a focus on capacity building and change management.

    Koleka Mlisana Biography

  • Patricia Alupo

    Using Telemedical approaches for clinical care- experiences from Uganda

    Summary: 

    Patricia shared her experience of attempting to integrate telemedicine ward rounds in Uganda, a project initiated in collaboration with Charité University Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the initial plan to use telemedicine for patient consultations and knowledge exchange, the project faced numerous barriers, including lack of setting readiness, technophobia, and regulatory challenges. As a result, the focus shifted to assessing the acceptability and feasibility of telemedicine using qualitative methods before proceeding with the initial objectives.

    Key points:

    • Uganda lacked institutional digital approaches to patient care, and the telemedicine project with Charité was the first of its kind in the country.
    • The project encountered barriers such as lack of knowledge about telemedicine, fear of technology, concerns about data privacy and security, and the absence of clear regulations governing telemedicine.
    • The team had to adapt their approach and focus on assessing the acceptability and feasibility of telemedicine among healthcare workers and other stakeholders using qualitative interviews and questionnaires.
    • Key lessons learned include the importance of understanding the unique setting, conducting stakeholder mapping, and obtaining buy-in from all parties involved before implementing telemedicine solutions.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: How did you handle the ethical challenges of using telemedicine, particularly with critically ill patients who may not be able to consent? 

    Answer: The project’s framework included obtaining consent from patients or their next of kin for telemedicine consultations. However, the ethics committee raised concerns about the inclusion of critically ill patients who might not be able to provide consent, even though they were the primary target group for the intervention. Finding a middle ground and working within the given circumstances was crucial.

    Patricia Alupo Biography

  • Mara Franke

    Impact and lessons learnt of a digital conditional cash transfer intervention on healthcare seeking in Southern Madagascar – a mixed-methods study

    Summary: 

    Mara presented the findings of a mixed-methods study evaluating the impact of a digital conditional cash transfer intervention on healthcare-seeking behavior in southern Madagascar. The intervention aimed to reduce financial barriers to accessing healthcare by covering a portion of the costs for drugs and consumables. The study employed a time-series analysis using a segmented linear regression model and qualitative interviews with various stakeholder groups to assess the intervention’s implementation and success.

    Key points:

    • The intervention significantly increased the number of patient visits across all facility levels during the implementation period, with the most substantial impact observed at the community health worker level.
    • Qualitative interviews revealed factors influencing the intervention’s success, including increased knowledge and awareness among patients, bolus payments for healthcare providers, and the involvement of community health workers.
    • Challenges included confusion about the intervention’s activities, delays in payouts, and unintended effects such as increased patient imprisonment for non-payment and healthcare worker-patient relationship strain.
    • The study highlighted the importance of stakeholder engagement, clear communication, and monitoring of unintended consequences when implementing digital health interventions in resource-limited settings.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Mara Franke Biography

  • Benjamin Chibaira

    Digitization of the laboratory- An Abbott Experience in Africa

    Summary: 

    Benjamin discussed the challenges and opportunities of digitizing healthcare data in Africa, emphasizing the importance of harnessing the vast amounts of siloed and unused data generated in healthcare facilities. He presented Abbott’s approach to digital solutions, including clinical decision support systems, sample management systems, inventory management, and business intelligence tools, which have been implemented in various African countries to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance patient care.

    Key points:

    • Up to 97% of the data collected in healthcare institutions goes unused, amounting to approximately 50 petabytes of data generated every month in a typical hospital environment.
    • Abbott’s digital solutions aim to integrate and utilize this data to personalize medicine, improve outcomes, and democratize access to information.
    • Successful implementation of digital solutions requires a focus on processes before technology, change management, and the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly healthcare workers.
    • The benefits of digitizing healthcare data include improved efficiency, system integration, clinical excellence, and data-driven decision-making.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: How do you handle the fear of job losses when introducing digital solutions, especially in the public sector? 

    Answer: Change management is crucial in any digital implementation project. Abbott works with change management teams to understand the impact of the project on human resources, and in most cases, jobs are repurposed, and people are retrained. Natural attrition due to retirement also helps in managing the workforce during the transition.

    Benjamin Chibaira Biography

Tea Break

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Refuel your mind and body with coffee, tea and light snacks.

Plenary Discussion

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Concluding each day of the conference will be a plenary panel discussion featuring the day’s speakers. These sessions provide an opportunity for in-depth dialogue on key topics related to digital technology innovations and applications in healthcare across the African continent. Panelists will share insights from their work and research, while also taking questions and input from the audience. The plenary panels aim to foster collaborative discussion and knowledge sharing to further advance progress in leveraging digital health solutions to improve healthcare access and outcomes in Africa.

  • Plenary Session Day 1

    Plenary Day 1:

    Key points:

    • There were questions around AI and ensuring the quality of data used to train AI models, especially when applying models trained on one population to another population. This was noted as a topic for further discussion in an upcoming AI-focused session.
    • Collaboration between the public and private healthcare sectors was discussed, including the need for interoperability standards and gradual alignment as countries move towards universal health coverage. Forums exist for the private sector to engage with government on these issues.
    • Platforms exist regionally and globally for African countries to share knowledge and collaborate on digital health, though participation is constrained by limited human resources. COVID-19 accelerated linkages between countries.
    • Shortages of healthcare workers are a major challenge. Potential solutions discussed include telehealth to better distribute expertise, digital tools to automate routine tasks, training programs to build a pipeline of new graduates, and enabling cross-border remote work by providers.
    • Cost-effectiveness studies are needed to compare investing in automation like e-labs versus training human resources.
    • There are many regulatory and policy considerations to enable cross-border telemedicine, which groups like the WHO are currently working on.

     

    Overall, the discussion highlighted the importance of collaboration, both between public and private sectors as well as between countries, to advance digital health in Africa, while noting the infrastructural and human resource constraints that need to be addressed. Sharing of knowledge and best practices across the continent was emphasized.

     

    Plenary Session Day 1 Biography

Social Event

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Interact with speakers and other delegates at our classic South African-style Braai featuring local delicacies and drinks. More details to come!

Day 2 // Saturday - 24 February, 2024

Day 2 focuses on the intersection of digital innovations and patient-centric healthcare. Sessions cover AI and machine learning advancements, ethical data management, precision medicine, and pharmacometrics.

AI and Machine Learning

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Explores the latest advancements in AI and machine learning technologies and their transformative impact on healthcare diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Chairperson: Kanshukan Rajaratnam

  • Darlington Akogo

    AGI4Health: Building the world first true Generalist AI Doctor

    Summary: 

    Darlington discussed the global healthcare challenges, particularly in Africa, and how AI can help bridge the gap caused by the shortage of clinicians. Mino Health AI Labs has developed an AI platform that can detect up to 14 different chest conditions, including lung cancer, with high accuracy and speed, outperforming radiologists in clinical studies.

    Key points:

    • The shortage of clinicians is a global problem, and AI can help reduce the workload on existing healthcare workers.
    • Mino Health’s AI platform can detect various conditions from medical images within seconds, with accuracies ranging from 90% to 97%, outperforming radiologists.
    • The AI system is certified by FDA Ghana and has users from over 50 countries.
    • Mino Health is working on AGI4Health, a foundation model for health that can perform multiple tasks across various specialties, modalities, and cancer types.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: Can the platform analyze several images simultaneously, or does it have to feed one image at a time? 

    Answer: The platform can perform bulk analysis, allowing users to upload multiple images simultaneously.

    Question 2: What are the limitations of the AI assistant, and are there any stats for misdiagnosis? 

    Answer: The key limitation is hallucination, which is common in large language models. The AI system is meant to be an assistive tool and not make final clinical decisions. The performance varies depending on the task, ranging from 98-99% for some tasks to much lower for others.

    Question 3: What criteria should be used when selecting AI radiology solutions, given the numerous companies in the market? 

    Answer: The best approach is to create a shortlist of reputable companies, consider factors such as regulatory approval and standards compliance, and then test the systems by simulating relevant use cases to determine which one best serves the intended purpose.

    Question 4: Does Mino Health retrain their AI models using the data uploaded by users from different countries, and are there any governing rules for using that data? 

    Answer: Yes, the data is used to improve the AI system, and this is typically stated in the terms and conditions. Data protection laws on a national level must be considered. Expert review is conducted before feeding the data to the AI system for retraining.

    Question 5: How can we avoid falling into the trap of trusting the machine over the experienced radiologist, given the higher accuracy rates of the AI system? 

    Answer: Being clear about the limitations of the AI system can help people learn not to over-rely on it. Clinicians have reported that the AI system can miss obvious things or pick up on tiny nodules that they might miss, highlighting the importance of not relying on it too much.

    Darlington Akogo Biography

  • Innocent Asiimwe

    Machine learning for covariate screening: application to a desipramine pop-PK model

    Summary: 

    Innocent presented his work on using machine learning for covariate screening in a desipramine population pharmacokinetic (pop-PK) model. The study aimed to explore the role of machine learning in covariate selection, comparing its performance to traditional pharmacometric techniques.

    Key points:

    • Machine learning can improve the efficiency of covariate selection, reducing runtime and increasing accuracy compared to traditional pharmacometric techniques like stepwise covariate modeling (SCM).
    • Penalized regression was the best-performing machine learning method in the simulation analysis, outperforming traditional approaches.
    • Accounting for correlations between covariates is crucial in covariate selection, as it can significantly impact the detection of true covariates.
    • Machine learning can be used as a pre-screening tool to reduce the number of covariates to a more manageable number before applying traditional pharmacometric approaches.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: Is the best-performing machine learning method (penalized regression) generally applicable, or does the structure of the data dictate the choice of method?

    Answer: The choice of method depends on experience with the dataset. In this case, penalized regression was unsurprising given the small sample size. Testing multiple machine learning methods is relatively fast, so if you are new to the data, it is recommended to test various methods to determine the best fit.

    Innocent Asiimwe Biography

  • Francesco Petruccione

    Keynote: Bridging Quantum Frontiers: From Biological Phenomena to Drug Discovery Innovation

    Summary: 

    Francesco discussed the relevance of quantum computing in the medical and biological context, emphasizing that everything is fundamentally quantum in nature. He explained how quantum computing could assist in drug discovery by providing exponential speedups for certain classes of problems compared to classical computers.

    Key points:

    • Quantum mechanics and information science have merged, leading to quantum information science with three main pillars: quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum metrology/sensing.
    • Quantum computing offers the possibility to solve certain classes of problems more efficiently than classical computers, providing exponential speedups in some cases.
    • Biology is fundamentally quantum, with phenomena like photosynthesis. magnetoreception in birds, olfaction, and neurotransmission exhibiting non-trivial quantum effects.
    • Quantum computing can aid in drug discovery by accelerating tasks such as molecular docking, protein folding, and quantum machine learning.

    Q&A:

    Question 1: Could you just give us some hints as to whether you’ve had any people reach out to you in this area of clinical pharmacology, quantitative clinical pharmacology, pharmacometrics, or if you’re aware of people that are working in that area in quantum?

    Answer: Francesco is well aware of people working in that area in quantum computing. He is on the scientific advisory board of a quantum computing startup in Korea that does exactly that – quantum computing for drug discovery. It is a growing area of research and industrial research. There is a big push worldwide to slowly replace traditional quantum chemistry software solutions with algorithms that run on quantum computing hardware. While we don’t yet have the fault-tolerant quantum computers everyone wants, Francesco thinks it’s inevitable that they will come, as it’s more of an engineering problem than a fundamental one with many billions of dollars being invested. He estimates in 5 years or so we will already have small fault-tolerant quantum computers, and then it will slowly grow from there. In summary, there are lots of people working in this area.

    Question 2: Could you please explain how scalable these quantum computers are? Can you talk about their scalability?

    Answer: At the moment, typical quantum computers in the cloud have around 500 qubits. The roadmaps of various producers are increasing rapidly. Some people think there is a kind of Moore’s Law for quantum computers – an exponential increase in the number of qubits as a function of time. Some even claim it’s double exponential, but we’ll have to see how it goes.

    The current difficulty in implementing error correction on quantum computers is that you need to make the system redundant in the number of qubits – around 10 qubits to error correct one. We don’t yet have that many qubits in hardware to do that. There are startups working on logical (error-corrected) qubits, but in small numbers so far.

    However, Francesco is confident that the roadmaps of the various hardware developers are realistic. In 5-10 years maximum, he believes we will have quantum computers that can address the hard problems we want to solve.

    Francesco Petruccione Biography

Tea Break

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Refuel your mind and body with coffee, tea and light snacks.

Data and Digital Ethics

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Addresses critical aspects of managing healthcare data, with a focus on privacy concerns, data security, and ethical challenges in AI and digital healthcare tools.

Chairpersons: Rohan Benecke and Sunday O. Oladejo

  • Tanya de Villiers-Botha

    Data Ethics and Health: Some Key Considerations

    Tanya discussed key ethical considerations around data and AI in healthcare, focusing on the issues of bias and inappropriate or irresponsible application. She critically examined a recent statement on deploying generative AI in adult social care as a case study.

    Key points:

    • Bias in AI systems can come from various sources (e.g. unrepresentative data, human biases) and is difficult to fully eliminate, posing risks like underestimating illness severity in certain groups.
    • Efforts to mitigate bias are needed throughout the AI lifecycle, from inclusive design to deployment and monitoring.
    • Before deciding to implement AI in sensitive domains like healthcare, a careful cost-benefit analysis is needed to weigh purported benefits against serious risks like bias and inaccuracies.
    • Key ethical principles for AI in health include protecting human autonomy, promoting wellbeing and safety, ensuring inclusivity and equity, transparency, accountability, and sustainability.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Tanya de Villiers-Botha Biography

  • Marietjie Botes

    Keynote: Regulatory challenges of a digital health ecosystem in South Africa.

    Summary: 

    Marietjie discussed the regulatory challenges of digital health ecosystems in South Africa, focusing on mental health apps as case studies. She highlighted the sensitive data these apps collect and the lack of adequate protection for cognitive liberties in current legislation like the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

    Key points:

    • Mental health apps saw increased usage during COVID-19 lockdowns, but many are not evidence-based or scientifically founded.
    • These apps collect highly sensitive data related to users’ mental states, thoughts, and behaviors, which is often stored on foreign servers.
    • Brain data can provide identifying evidence about physical and mental states, and potentially be used in concerning ways (e.g. criminal investigations).
    • Current data protection laws like POPIA do not adequately protect cognitive liberties and mental privacy.
    • Implementing “data nutrition labels” for neurotech apps could help inform users about data collection and usage practices.

    Q&A: 

    Question: Is it necessary for healthcare businesses collecting patient data to get a code of conduct published and an exemption from the Information Regulator, or are they automatically exempt under the Health Act?

    Answer: It depends on factors like how data is collected (with consent or not), if it’s identifiable or de-identified, the purpose of collection, and where it’s stored. A draft code of conduct for health research is currently under consideration by the Information Regulator, which should provide practical guidance on POPIA compliance in this context. Broad exemptions can be applied for, but specifics would depend on the particular case.

    Marietjie Botes Biography

  • Christian Djeffel

    Data Governance in the Health Sector

    Summary:

    Christian provided an overview of current European regulatory initiatives aimed at enabling trusted data sharing for research and innovation while protecting individual rights. He highlighted the importance of building public data infrastructures to support projects like digital health.

    Key points:

    • Key regulatory developments include the German Patient Data Protection Act, the EU Data Governance Act, and the European Health Data Space.
    • These initiatives aim to enable safe data sharing through measures like electronic health records, IT security standards, voluntary data donation, and GDPR-compliant secondary use of data.
    • Successful data sharing requires trust, which can be facilitated by independent intermediaries, user control, transparency, and non-profit models.
    • Public institutions have an important role in actively supporting data infrastructure through activities like standardization.

    Q&A: 

    Question: Could you please speak to incentive mechanisms for data donation?

    Answer: Incentives for data donation can include making the process easy and controlled, highlighting the value to specific communities, prestige, and active inclusion of target audiences as partners rather than mere subjects. Non-profit framing and participatory co-design approaches can help build trust and willingness to donate data.

    Christian Djeffel Biography

  • David Sibbald

    Establishing a sustainable Digital Research Environment for Africa​

    Summary: 

    David and Catriona discussed the concept of digital research environments (DREs) that enable trusted data sharing and collaborative data science. They presented a case study of Waitt’s Maternal and Infant Lactation pharmacoKinetics (MILK) research group in Uganda piloting the use of Aridhia’s DRE platform.

    Key points:

    • Human health data is being generated at an unprecedented rate and granularity, but sharing it is hindered by security, governance, and IP concerns.
    • DREs aim to provide a trusted and secure platform for multiple data sets to be linked and analyzed by approved users.
    • Aridhia’s DRE platform has been used in projects across 50 countries for various disease areas.
    • Waitt’s group in Uganda is piloting the DRE to enhance collaboration, credibility, and capacity building, though challenges around internet reliability and sustainability remain.

    Q&A:

    Question: Is there a system for evaluating the quality of research data included in the platform, and is a common data structure a prerequisite?

    Answer: There are various methods available to assess data quality upon ingestion. The platform encourages the use of standardized data models like CDISC for interoperability, but it is not a strict prerequisite.

    David Sibbald Biography

Lunch

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Lunch will be served outside in the Dean’s Garden.

Clinical Applications and Patient Perspectives

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Focuses on practical applications of AI, precision medicine, and pharmacometrics in clinical settings, highlighting patient care impacts and patient perspectives on healthcare innovations.

Chairpersons: Bernd Rosenkranz, Colin Pillai and Kanshukan Rajaratnam

  • Salomé Meyer

    Keynote: Equitable access to health care - Is this possible?

    Summary: 

    Salomé discussed the challenges of achieving equitable access to healthcare, particularly in the context of South Africa. She highlighted the stark disparities between the public and private healthcare sectors, the impact of COVID-19 on exposing health inequities, and the need for patient involvement in decision-making processes.

    Key points:

    • 86% of South Africa’s population relies on the public healthcare sector, while only 20% of the healthcare workforce serves this sector.
    • The private sector has 71 medical schemes serving only 9 million people, with 80% of equipment and healthcare personnel in cancer care working in the private sector.
    • Patients should have a say in the affordability of their treatment, and mechanisms like pooled procurement and voluntary licensing can promote equitable and affordable access.
    • Collaboration between stakeholders, including patients, is crucial to close the equity gap in healthcare.

    Q&A: 

    Question 1: Do you believe that equity of access to healthcare for all is possible in your lifetime?

    Answer: Salomé believes that with collaboration and actively seeking partnerships, a lot can be achieved. COVID-19 has helped highlight inequities and force stakeholders to work together. Achieving equity might not happen by 2030, but possibly by 2040 if the architecture of health is reshaped.

    Question 2: How can patient organizations work with scientists to ensure patient involvement in research and development?

    Answer: It is essential to include patients from the start in any clinical trial or research. There needs to be educational knowledge transfer between organizations and groups to empower patients to participate effectively. Patient voices are becoming stronger as they feel left out, and it is crucial for scientists to make an effort to ensure the people they work for understand the processes and the importance of their involvement.

    Salomé Meyer Biography

  • Samer Mouksassi

    Case Studies in Pharmacometrics for Patient Care

    Summary: 

    Samer discussed the importance of pharmacometrics in patient care, highlighting the need for increased adoption of model-informed precision dosing tools in clinical settings. He provided examples of existing tools and platforms, emphasizing the importance of empowering clinicians to utilize these resources effectively to optimize patient treatment.

    Key points:

    • Pharmacometrics aims to improve clinical care and optimize treatment for individual patients by leveraging mathematical models of drug exposure and response.
    • Despite the availability of numerous model-informed precision dosing tools, their adoption in clinical practice remains limited, often depending on a few individuals.
    • Empowering clinicians to utilize these tools independently, rather than relying on pharmacometricians, could increase their adoption and impact on patient care.
    • Integrating pharmacometric principles and tools into clinical decision support systems, alongside advancements in biosensors and point-of-care testing, can help democratize personalized medicine.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Samer Mouksassi Biography

  • Anne Neumann

    Health insurance uptake decisions in Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme and the potential for digital technology - an explorative study

    Summary:

    Anne presented findings from a qualitative study exploring health insurance uptake decisions in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the potential role of digital technology. The study aimed to understand the factors influencing uptake decisions and how mobile renewal services have impacted these decisions.

    Key points:

    • NHIS uptake decisions are influenced by individual perceptions of healthcare, health insurance, technology, and fund availability, as well as community experiences and systemic structures.
    • Mobile renewal services have eased the renewal process and improved uptake, but challenges remain, such as digital literacy and access to mobile phones.
    • Perceived quality of NHIS services, experiences of out-of-pocket payments, and relationships with healthcare providers also shape uptake decisions.
    • Technology interventions should consider the complex interplay of individual, community, and systemic factors influencing insurance uptake and aim to shift experiences towards perceiving health insurance as useful and beneficial.

    Q&A: 

    Question: Is there a danger of introducing more friction into the system by implementing technology solutions that are not yet ready for the context in which they are being deployed?

    Answer: Anne acknowledged the importance of considering the readiness of both the technology and the context. In their study, they focused on urban areas where mobile phone uptake is higher, and participants emphasized the importance of using basic mobile technologies like mobile money that are already widely adopted, in addition to smartphone apps that may provide more features but have lower uptake.

    Anne Neumann Biography

  • Elvis Ndansi

    Promoting clinical trial informativeness in Africa

    Clarence Mbanga on behalf of Elvis Ndansi

    Summary: 

    Clarence introduced the concept of clinical trial informativeness and its importance in optimizing the use of limited research resources in Africa. He presented the DACA initiative, which aims to promote informativeness by building a network of African-based clinical research experts who review protocols and encourage best practices among investigators across the continent.

    Key points:

    • An informative trial is one designed to have the best chance of completing on time, answering research questions definitively, and producing results that can impact policy or practice.
    • Africa accounts for 18% of the world’s population and 25% of the global disease burden but conducts only 2.5% of clinical trials, with 75% of these trials being uninformative.
    • DACA offers free protocol review services and potential grant support to help investigators optimize their study designs and increase the likelihood of generating informative results.
    • The initiative is “for Africans, by Africans” and leverages a network of experts across various domains to provide multidisciplinary feedback on protocols.

    Q&A Deferred to Plenary Session

    Elvis Ndansi Biography

Tea Break

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Refuel your mind and body with coffee, tea and light snacks.

Plenary Discussion

The order shown here may not necessarily reflect the actual order of speakers.

Concluding each day of the conference will be a plenary panel discussion featuring the day’s speakers. These sessions provide an opportunity for in-depth dialogue on key topics related to digital technology innovations and applications in healthcare across the African continent. Panelists will share insights from their work and research, while also taking questions and input from the audience. The plenary panels aim to foster collaborative discussion and knowledge sharing to further advance progress in leveraging digital health solutions to improve healthcare access and outcomes in Africa.

  • Plenary Session Day 2

    Plenary Day 2:

    Key points:

    • Data privacy and security:
      • Concerns were raised about protecting brain data and mental privacy, as it can provide identifying evidence about an individual’s physical and mental states.
      • Technological standards, cybersecurity measures, and transparency in data usage were suggested as ways to protect sensitive data while still enabling beneficial research.
    • Collaboration across sectors:
      • The importance of collaboration between digital health and other sectors like finance, education, and agriculture was highlighted.
      • The finance sector was noted as being more advanced in digitizing services and could provide insights for digital health.
    • Informed consent:
      • Challenges with ensuring truly informed consent from patients were discussed, including language barriers, complex forms, and lack of understanding.
      • Potential solutions included using multimedia, local languages, ongoing dialogue, and involving patients earlier in the research process.
    • Equitable access to computing infrastructure:
      • Concerns were raised about the availability and accessibility of computing resources for researchers, particularly in low-resource settings.
      • Suggestions included better communication about existing resources, collaboration between institutions, and addressing issues of cost and data security.
    • Sustainability and dependency:
      • The risk of creating dependencies on external digital health solutions was discussed, particularly for governments and organizations.
      • Strategies to mitigate this included local data storage, open-source solutions, and building local capacity for technology development and maintenance.
    • Planetary health and climate change:
      • The potential for digital health and AI to contribute to addressing planetary health challenges was explored.
      • Interdisciplinary collaboration and aligning incentives across countries were seen as key to tackling these global issues.

    Plenary Session Day 2 Biography

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