GTUC Ventures into Healthcare
The Ghana Telecom University College (GTUC) is partnering the Aalborg University of Denmark to explore how Information Communication and Technology (ICT) could be used as a leverage to address the numerous challenges inherent in health care delivery, training, and medical education.
The university believes that ICT applied to health care delivery would help increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of service, and also enable knowledge sharing, as well as provide the basis for networks of professionals to be supported by their peers and educators.
The President of the University, Dr. Osei Darkwa, said information technology holds the potential to revolutionise healthcare practice in Ghana, adding, 'This quest to apply IT to health care services has given birth to new areas in healthcare, such as telemedicine, telehealth, medicine informatics, and other emerging fields.'
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a workshop on 'Improving the Quality of Health Care Delivery in Ghana: The Role of ICT', in Accra, yesterday, he noted that the health care system in Ghana, like those in other parts of Africa, had not been able to respond fully to the multiple health challenges confronting the people.
According to him, the challenges include low quality of health services, inefficient use of scarce health resources, shortage and uneven distribution of health resources, and lack of adequate medical information on patients.
He pointed out that health care was arguably one of the most fundamental needs in Ghana and elsewhere, hence, three out of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) are related to health care.
However, 'Without a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges inherent within the health care system, we, as a country, cannot achieve any of those global health targets by the year 2015, which is just four years away,' he observed.
Furthermore, he stated that the experiences of ICT applications in health care delivery in countries like Mozambique, Senegal, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa had generated a lot of interest in how the application of ICT to health care delivery could transform Ghana's existing health care system.
Thus, the success of these pioneering initiatives, including map of medicine, electronic health (e-health) that have emerged to provide ready access to patient's medical records, and a wide range of medication, have motivated the current workshop.
In view of this, the participants of the workshop were drawn from the Ghana Health Service, University of Ghana Public Health School, Health Informatics and Information Studies departments, Medical Science Department of the University of Development Studies, and the National Health Insurance Scheme among others, would be taken through telemedicine and mobile health.
Other areas of training include ICT and National Health Insurance Scheme, ICT and Health Information Management, and ICT and Healthcare Quality Assurance.
Professor Knud Erik Skouby of the Aalborg University of Denmark said the collaboration of his institution with the GTUC developed out the Federation of Danish Universities' interest to coordinate research activities of universities in developing countries, out of which Ghana and Tanzania were elected.
This, he stated, was aimed at coordinating efficient research activities to build capacity in the area of ICT, which plays a key role in health care delivery, but which have not been reflected enough in Ghana's health system.
Thus, the objective of the partnership is to put forward the need and appropriateness of including ICT in health activities of the country, and look at the current health care situation, and find out how ICT could be used to improve the healthcare system in Ghana.
He expressed hope that the stakeholder workshop would produce a qualified response for Denmark to recognise how to apply ICT to the health system in Ghana, and how to channel resources to areas of priority.
On his part, the Director of Research, Statistics and Management of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Isaac Adams, said Ghana had reached a point where ICT use in the health system was no longer an issue of discussion, but one of survival and performance.
He said the challenge of performance was huge, especially, in terms of how to fight the burden of diseases, both communicable and non-communicable, which constitute a drain on state resources.
He noted that ICT was an essential tool for achieving strategic development in health delivery, adding, 'Our chances of meeting the MDGs would be greatly enhanced, if we employ ICT in our strategies and adopt policies that would place premium on challenges.'
He further observed that there was the need to have an agenda for the uptake of available technology in the health sector, and apply technology to generate the required solutions to meet the needs of people, and boost coverage of health system, whereas empowering populations to seek healthier lifestyles.
According to him, the ministry was already putting in efforts to fully integrate ICT into the health sector, and needed the right investment to complete it, and thanked the management of the GTUC for making health care part of their agenda.