The Society of Family Health Physicians of Ghana (SOFHPOG) has spearheaded a series of discussions in Kumasi, expected to give a further push to Ghana’s quest to achieve Universal Health Coverage by the year 2030.
The forum formed part of the Society’s first Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference and 20 years of family medicine in Ghana.
It hosted the Deputy Minister of Health Alex Kodwo Kom Abban as well as Directors of the Ghana Health Service and the Executive Director of Millennium Promise Alliance - Chief Nathaniel Ebo Nsarko.
It formed part of the 20th anniversary and scientific conference of the society of family health physicians of Ghana marked on the theme, “Improving access to universal care.”
Addressing the forum in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional Deputy Director of the Ghana Health Service in charge of Clinical Care, Dr Adomako Boateng painted a graphic picture about the dire need for more health services within the rural parts of Ghana.
He nonetheless gave a rundown on some innovative I.T. driven interventions that the Health Service is embarking on to harmonize data collection and monitoring of patients within the hinterlands where access to health remains a challenge.
He indicated that the health service has been well mapped out into national, regional, district, sub-district and community-based data levels with each level feeding data into a District Health Management Information System capable of providing all routine health data at the click of a button.
Dr Adomako Boateng indicated that technologies like the SMS for life and the Mobile Technology for Health (MOTECH) had begun chalking successes in disseminating digitized specialist information to patients especially for pregnant women living far away from antenatal and postnatal healthcare delivery service centres.
Dr Adomako was positive with other complimenting systems including the Ariel power provided by the Ghana Health Service Emergency Medical Drones Technology, Ghana has bright prospects of properly monitoring logistics and stock levels as well as fully hitting 100% universal health coverage in the near future.
Chief Nat Ebo Nsako elucidated on the use of ICT to accelerate Ghana’s forward match at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 which enjoins member countries to ensure that no one is denied access to quality health care no matter their geographical location and financial status.
He pointed out that whereas the statistics show that eighty percent of all specialists are domiciled in the cities to the detriment of the rural areas, “mobile phone penetration is 128% suggesting that even the rural poor have access to phones. Once they have it, we should be able to take advantage of that, to reach them.”
He outlined that apart from the current telemedicine interventions his outfit is running, there were other projects to ensure that wrong data gathered on immunizations through the manual data sheet method is reduced through scientifically backed databases.
Mr Ebo Nsako was elated with other developments including a Teledentistry platform to collect magnified pictures to be transmitted to specialists for medical advice as well as Rural Diagnostics Lab Services where blood and other samples can be picked from hard to reach areas on motorbikes, tested and results sent electronically to the community-based health care provider.
He however called for the passage of a mobile handheld device policy which will regulate which kind of data and what kind of services can be offered with the use of mobile telephone communication within the health sector.
Giving his concluding remarks, the deputy minister of health Alex Kodwo Kom Abban took on board recommendations from the Family Physicians to be discussed on the national level to find better ways of harnessing their diverse specialities to broaden access to specialist healthcare in Ghana.
He assured, “We will be making sure that we have proper synergies and coordination between the family physician and the other chains of medical services so that the secondary and tertiary facilities are not inundated with matters that could easily be resolved by the family physician,”
Speaking to Ultimate and GHONE TV News on the sidelines of the event, president of the Society of Family Physicians Dr Emmanuel Ati insisted that strengthening primary health care has been proven to be the catalyst for achieving universal health care worldwide.
He demanded that government provides support in the area of training and deployment of more fellows in Family Medicine to districts where access to health is poor.
He disclosed, “For us, we want to train more fellows and they can go into the district hospitals and set those district hospitals up as training centres and they can train other doctors there. So we will have a multiplier effect.”
“If we go this way, a time will come that we will have family physicians manning most of the district hospitals and they will supervise the sub-districts like the CHPS compounds and community-based health clinics and they can even use technology where the doctor is in the district hospital but can review cases at the sub-districts using Mobile Apps. As I am in Kumasi, I report ECG cases for a lot of district hospitals who take the pictures, send it to me and I write the reports and send it back to them. Radiologists are doing that so we also want to use Technology to reach everybody in the sub-districts and through that system we will be able to achieve universal healthcare,” he added.
There are increased calls for Ghana to pay more attention to the training of specialists in Family Health Practice otherwise known as General Physicians in developed countries.
Ghana currently has a little over a hundred of these General Practitioners since it began training family physicians in the year 2000.