The advent of the Information Age and the technology revolution has resulted in the transformation of many traditional industries and practices from retail shopping to word processing. The healthcare industry has not been left out and much advancement in healthcare training and delivery is a direct result of the technological advancements of the day.
The Ghanaian healthcare system, on the other hand, is by any measure inadequate to the needs of Ghanaians with too few doctors available and not enough specialists on hand. However, technology can alleviate at least some of the problems healthcare faces in Ghana. Here are three ways:
Healthcare Teaching/Training. The ‘Brain Drain’ (read our article about it) has cost, and still continues to cost, Ghana many of her healthcare professionals this makes healthcare teaching and training in the country more difficult as there aren’t enough specialists available to teach new generations of doctors. Modern technology can help alleviate this problem. For example, video conferencing technologies such as Skype are now easily (and freely) available. These technologies will allow teaching institutions like the University of Ghana Medical School to invite professionals outside the country to teach local students and supervise their learning. Such technology is already being used in Western nations to allow specialists to consult on cases and direct doctors treating medical problems in areas physically remote from the specialist,
Electronic Medical Records (EMR). As Ghana pushes on with its National Identification schemes for public records, the time is perhaps ripe for the government to introduce the keeping of Electronic medical records. Often, a patient visiting a hospital has to sign up for their records to be stored manually on pieces of paper at the hospital. This current system causes difficulty sometimes where the same hospital may have trouble finding and retrieving patient records. As well, it can take an excessive and potentially life-threatening amount of time for patient records to be found and transferred from one hospital to another. The creation of a national electronic medical record database (potentially linked to the National I.D), kept on secure hospital-only accessible servers will allow hospitals to quickly and securely upload individuals’ medical records. These medical records (e.g. blood type, congenital illnesses, etc.) would then be easily accessible by any doctor in any hospital without going through lengthy bureaucratic processes. Best of all, any individual carrying their National I.D. at the time of an accident would be able to have their prior medical records easily accessed during treatment.
Personal Healthcare. The increasing rate of mobile phone adoption and internet penetration across the country means more Ghanaians are able to access medical information. These developments also allow for healthcare advice and consulting to be delivered directly to individuals. There already exist some mobile services that supply relevant information to pregnant women guiding them through the course of their pregnancy. The same mobile applications or services could be developed for cancer patients, advising them through the course of their treatment. The Ministry of Health itself could rely on direct mobile communication (e.g. mass messaging services) to relay public health messages directly to a majority of Ghanaians.
As we continue the national debate about how we can improve healthcare delivery in this country we must not forget or ignore the great benefits technology brings. These technologies provide material, demonstrable aids to the healthcare service in Ghana. These technologies will have to be implemented eventually but Ghana can take the bold stride now in making its health care sector a shining star of technological and personal excellence as well as an example to other African nations.
Executive, Product Marketing and Media Relations
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