Dr Da Costa Aboagye, Director of Health Promotion, Ghana Health Service, says electronic health delivery is the future of Ghana's health system.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to the increased reliance on digital health systems and said it was time to explore such opportunities in taking healthcare to the doorsteps of the citizenry.
Dr. Aboagye said this when he made a presentation on the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s digitalization agenda.
The Director of Health Promotion, who is also the Leader of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement for COVID-19 National Response said “It is important that we use technology to achieve universal health coverage and also SDG 3, which talks about health and wellness.”
He said there must be digitalization across the health sector where electronic records could be used in hospitals and also be made available across other facilities in the health sector to ensure proper diagnosis of patients.
Dr. Aboagye said in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, digital platforms, including social media and bulk mobile messaging were used to educate and engage the public in risk communication, particularly, to address misinformation and stigmatization.
He said digital sharing of situational reports, newsletters and posters, and virtual digital meetings through platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and GoToMeeting were all adopted to deal with the outbreak.
Some measures also included the mounting of the Ghana Health Service COVID-19 website and setting up of the 311 helpline for digital consultations and queries, and the use of digital thermometers.
Other interventions were the use of telemedicine programmes for citizens to access medical care, and drone technology to deliver samples to testing facilities.
Dr. Aboagye said, however, the pandemic had also had an adverse impact on the digitalization process with the high cost of running electronic health records system, hackers stealing patient information, selling patient information to third parties, digital payment fraud, and legal implications due to inadequate skills and documentation by health providers.
“COVID-19 has pushed digital health forward amidst the challenges,” he emphasized.
Dr. Aboagye indicated that access to capital to expand digitalisation, investment in digital marketing technology, building human resources, good governance, increased education on information technology, and risk management and protection of privacy were essential drivers in advancing digital health delivery.
He stressed the need to scale up the use of technology, particularly telemedicine, mobile health, quarantine apps, and voice booths towards achieving universal health coverage.
Mr Richard Okyere-Fosu of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) also underscored the need for workers in the public sector to adopt Smart Workplace, a digital platform, for the discharge of their duties.