What is Telemedicine?

Mother and child consulting with a doctor. Source: freepik
Black man communicating with his family in hospital over a video call. Source: freepik

Imagine sitting in the comfort of your home or office and having access to a medical professional as and when you need it. You get to talk to a medical expert in real time, receive a diagnosis and or prognosis and are able to purchase drugs and or book appointments for further consultations, all on your mobile device. This scenario has been made possible through the power of technology, and this is what telemedicine is about. 

Telemedicine allows health and medical facilities to offer the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using telecommunications technology. It also enables the delivery of clinical services using the internet, wireless connections, satellite, and mobile networks.

The practice of telemedicine can be grouped into the provision of three types of healthcare solutions: 

  • Store-and-forward telemedicine services
  • Remote patient monitoring services 
  • Real-time encounters with medical professionals

Store-and-forward telemedicine services refers to the kind of patient and medical professional interaction that takes place at different times. It allows healthcare providers to share patient medical information like lab reports, imaging studies, videos, and other records with a physician, radiologist, or specialist at another location. This is made possible using a web and mobile application solution that has built-in, sophisticated security features to ensure doctor and patient confidentiality. This approach gives patients access to a care team that can consist of providers in different locations, even across long distances and in different time zones. 

Remote patient monitoring is a service that allows healthcare professionals to track a patient’s vital signs and activities from a distance or at a different location. This type of monitoring is often used for the management of high-risk patients, like those with heart disease and people who are recovering from a recent bout of illness. Remote monitoring is also useful for the treatment of a number of chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, depression, arthritis and osteoporosis. 

For real-time telemedicine encounters, patients and healthcare providers use video conferencing software to hear and see each other in real time. Real-time telemedicine encounters can be used in lieu of a trip to the doctor’s office in certain situations. It is appropriate for primary care, urgent care, follow-up visits, and the management of chronic illness.

How will Telemedicine fit into the delivery of quality healthcare to patients in countries like Ghana? 

Telemedicine service providers offer an alternative way to deliver effective and efficient care to patients. They also expand access to healthcare for patients and provide a more convenient way for patients to get the quality care they need, when they need it:

  • Telemedicine can improve the quality of healthcare services in prisons, detention centres, remote locations, and in ambulances on the way to health care facilities.
  • Public health and teaching hospitals can employ Telemedicine for education, data collection and research.
  • Telemedicine can allow for the delivery of healthcare services in accident and disaster management. This will improve the recovery and survival outcomes of victims.

Telemedicine can also be incorporated into any type of medical or clinical practice including General Private Practice, Psychiatry, Pathology, Dermatology, Neurology, Intensive care, Cardiology, and Emergency care.

Is Ghana ready for Telemedicine services?

In recent times, Ghana has made great strides in improved Information Technology infrastructure, where millions of citizens are now connected to telecommunication networks with nationwide coverage. Internet and data services are available nationwide, and broadband and 4G enabled mobile devices enjoy high patronage. This provides a good foundation for the roll-out of telemedicine services platforms.

Also, with a growing population of over 31,815,371 people, Ghana is faced with an inadequate healthcare infrastructure with geographic barriers to healthcare in many suburban and rural areas and a deficit of healthcare professionals in areas where they are needed most. Telemedicine provides a viable solution to this challenge and will be greatly beneficial to ensuring the wellbeing of the growing population.

Telemedicine services in Ghana 

In 2011 a number of international organizations partnered with the Ghana Health service and other private institutions to pilot about 21 Telemedicine projects. These include The Novartis Foundation, Millennium Promise Alliance, Earth Institute, Ghana Ministry of health, Ghana Ministry of Communication, National Health Insurance Agency, Ambulance Service, Ghana Mental Health Authority, Airtel, and Medgate.

Currently, a number of companies offer mobile applications that provide the public access to medical advice and services as well as healthcare information using a mobile phone. These include the following:

  • Bisa health mobile application 
  • Bima health and insurance mobile application
  • Ghinger health application
  • MyAhotor+ health mobile application

The takeaway

Telemedicine is the solution to modern-day challenges with access to quality healthcare and provides an advantage for people who require medical care and advice but are unable to visit a medical centre for various reasons such as cost, long queues and fear of stigmatization. Telemedicine can help bridge the gap between patients and access to quality healthcare anywhere in the world.

  1. E. T. Tchao, Isaac Acquah, S. D. Kotey, C. S. Aggor, J. J. Kponyo. On Telemedicine Implementations in Ghana, International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications (IJACSA), Vol. 10, No. 3, 2019 (accessed on www.ijacsa.thesai.org September 2nd 2021)
  2. Telemedicine-Ghana, BisaDoc (PDF), Dr Kwaku Amexo drkamexo@bisadoc.com, 6095065544
  3. https://borgenproject.org/telemedicine-plays-a-big-role-in-ghana/
  4. https://www.scidev.net/sub-saharan-africa/news/ghana-telemedicine-successful-trial/?gclid=CjwKCAjwsNiIBhBdEiwAJK4khgWs84fBVtfKAmn1QOIunUxv5SsZT2fzMMv3OrqqL_ZOol_KD6bi0xoCNIoQAvD_BwE
  5. https://chironhealth.com/definitive-guide-to-telemedicine/about-telemedicine/types-of-telemedicine/

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February 24, 2022