Broadband Internet and healthcare delivery

Computer-assisted Surgery (CAS) is a fast-advancing field in medicine, which combines medical expertise with computer intelligence to give faster and more accurate results in surgical procedures.
With the help of the Internet, information about these emerging trends are readily available online. Medical practitioners and lecturers are also able to leverge the power of the Internet to impart knowledge, less costly and time saving.

Dr Paul Ofori-Atta is a Ghanaian Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon, working at the St Albans City and Watford General Hospital, England has taken advantage of this fast-advancing field in medicine  to attend to his patience.

With a very successful career in the UK, he formed Motec Life, a non-profit society of mostly health practitioners,  to give back mainly to less privileged societies in Africa, with Ghana and Nigeria receiving a greater chunk of assistance from this group of selfless, dedicated and hardworking health professionals.

His philanthropic work and interest in imparting knowledge to health professionals back home compel him to frequently visit Ghana several times in a year to lead teams to perform complex surgeries and organise workshops.

Unlike two decades ago, Dr Ofori-Atta now has to his advantage a kind of technology that can enhance the effectiveness and reach of his impartation services. He can also acquire more information through the same medium, which is fast developing into the developing world.

However, today he links up with health facilities and educational institutions to offer training and share knowledge with them through teleconferencing.

For instance, he told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that he occasionally links up with Jirapa educational centre where he offers training for staff at Jirapa St Joseph's Hospital.

The importance of computers and the Internet cannot be overemphasised. Computers have given a new dimension to every field, and medicine is no exception.

“Teleconferencing as an educational tool is a useful means for exchange of knowledge and experience,” he said.

Advanced computer-based systems are now used to examine organs of the body and some complex surgeries are performed with the help of computers.

Computer-assisted Surgery (CAS) is a fast-advancing field in medicine, which combines medical expertise with computer intelligence to give faster and more accurate results in surgical procedures and information about these emerging trends are readily available online.

Ghana’s leading telecommunications provider, MTN, said it was readily contributing to that revolution with the provision of super reliable internet services with wide coverage, coupled with well-tailored broadband bundles to help transform lives.

The Innovations and Data Services Manager of MTN Ghana, Nana Osei Afrifa, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS “the fast internet service provided by the company would enable medical practitioners in Ghana and other parts of Africa to leverage on communications technology to do far more than share expert opinions, but also make it possible for doctors to access computer software for diagnosis of diseases, a new service line it calls ‘iDoctor’.

An iDoctor uses new technology to enhance the medical profession by allowing physicians to be on top of their job, connected to the world’s pool of knowledge and resources on the internet through my-data-enabled smart phones and wireless office.

Through communication technology, the trend in Ghana is changing towards patients connecting with their doctors through cheaper communication means such as text messages, WhatsApp or a BBM PIN around the clock.

A medical doctor in Ghana told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on anonymity that “this helps me to know about the different turns in their cases and make quick and timely interventions.”

The doctor said on very few occasions, he collaborated with other doctors over the internet through Skype, Viber but said he was aware there were other means by which he could be in touch with other professions through mediums such as video calls.

Today, it is possible to obtain expert opinions within seconds. I can communicate within seconds with another colleague sitting at the other side of the globe and this makes access to information so easy.

Doctors and other health professionals can also have online fora to discuss medical issues through video conferencing, blogs, and scholarly articles or contribute to medical journals available online.

Dr Ofori-Atta, who cautiously welcomes telemedicine however agrees that it could be a useful form of exposure to treatment options.

“I am not a fan of telemedicine.  I think that efforts should be concentrated on direct responsible training (apprenticeship) for specialists to enable them deliver treatment directly and independently,” he said.

But he was quick to add that as an opportunity for continuous professional development, telemedicine should be encouraged, especially as it could serve as link between the regional and teaching hospitals and the diaspora.

This will be taking advantage of the power of communications technology to make domestic health practitioners abreast of trends in medicine and updates in the medical fields.

The Innovations and Data Services manager of MTN said “iDoctors can acquire information about new methods of treatment faster by the click of a button or a tab on a tablet, with good internet connectivity”.

He said “MTN is committed to providing the fastest internet service for data users such as iDoctors in Ghana to enable them exchange images and messages in seconds so as to derive speedy conclusions with experts, especially when they are seeking advice or sharing knowledge in a convenient manner over the Internet”

Nana Afrifa called on doctors and other health professionals in the country to use the internet and become iDoctors.

Dr Ofori-Atta, however, believes that Ghana had a long way to go in providing the full gamut of infrastructure and other conditions necessary for accelerating the use of telemedicine in the healthcare delivery in the country.

By Samuel Doe Ablordeppey/ Graphic Business/Ghana

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