Ghana's Healthcare system is still significantly analog. Physical paper folders are still widespread in many health facilities in the country.
It remains one of the biggest hurdles in Ghana's attempt to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030. The big question has been how the country will be able to infuse digital health into its health system.
With offices in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, and Amsterdam, PharmAccess Foundation is leading the drive towards digitization of the health sector by mobilizing private and public resources, aimed at improving the quality of services, to reach even the most excluded people with financing options to pay for quality health care.
The PharmAccess Foundation has therefore organized the 2021 digital health week to discuss ideas to improve the digitalization of the Health Sector.
Speaking on this year’s theme, “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for all in a digital age. What can we do to make it happen?” Country Director of PharmAccess Foundation, Dr. Maxwell Antwi, expressed optimism that digitizing Healthcare will significantly improve the country's healthcare system.
He said, “Digitalization and the effective use of technology in the health delivery system will make quality healthcare delivery very efficient.
Dr. Antwi, who is also a member of the WHO Roster of Experts on Digital Health explained that, “If someone is diabetic and collapses in the middle of the Central Business District of Accra now and is rushed to a hospital and the folder is stuck in a warehouse full of old folders, by the time the health staff is able to retrieve the folder and flip through to know that patient ‘A’ actually has diabetes, the person may have died.
He said, “We have something in medicine called the Golden One Hour; that Golden One Hour would have been lost and we would have serious and adverse consequences on the treatment."
He explained that PharmAccess Foundation is collaborating with the NHIA, the Christain Health Association of Ghana, HEFRA and other stakeholders in the country’s health delivery value chain to strengthen the capacity of these institutions to digitize key aspects of their operations.
PharmAccess Foundation in partnership with Transform Health, Healthcare Federation of Ghana and Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030 organized the 2021 Digital Health Week, to highlight the potential and opportunities that digital technology and data offer to accelerate progress towards Ghana’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) 2030 Agenda.
NHIA and Digitalization
CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority Dr. Lydia Dsane-Selby argued that it is very crucial to digitize Healthcare to improve access. According to her, the National Health Insurance Authority will be focusing on preventive measures.
She said a full digitalization of all NHIS claims has been recommended as the key strategic policy action for the future of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
Data analytics of three years of NHIS electronic claims, valid from January 2017 to December 2019 performed by a joint team made up of National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), PharmAccess Foundation, and a faculty of the University of Ghana Economics Department has revealed the need for the NHIA to fully digitalize its claims submission and vetting process to realize the full value of its own data for the benefit of the health ecosystem, she explained.
"As we link everybody, then we can plan some other kind of services around prevention. We now want to think about preventing illness rather than waiting for you to be sick so we treat you. So, we are encouraging everybody, use the *929, link with your Ghana card, and then we together with the Ghana health service and the ministry we will give you preventive health services as well".
CHAG and healthcare digitalization
On his part, the Executive Director of Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), Dr. Peter Yeboah expressed the readiness of his organization to partner with the state and other relevant stakeholders to deepen digitalization in the Health sector.
"We are looking at how we can use digital solutions to improve supply chain processes. So that the three key elements of attaining Universal Health Coverage which is access are improved to ensure all people living in Ghana have access to services that are required. The second aspect is quality.
He observed that through digitalization, we have mechanisms for authenticating medicines through digital innovations like Med4All which helps to manage one of the key challenges within the entire system; sub-standard, counterfeit, or low standard medicines."
He said CHAG with support from PharmAccess Ghana has established the Med4All digital supply chain platform. CHAG has a network of 330 faith-based healthcare facilities that account for an annual 6.5 million patient visits and admissions, particularly serving poor and remote communities.
Through this initiative, CHAG and PharmAccess Ghana are capitalizing on opportunities created by digital technology to directly and transparently connect trusted Ghanaian manufacturers and importers of medicines to healthcare providers in the value chain at a low cost