A Ghana-based digital health expert has told nuviun that the citizens of Ghana (Ghanaians) are enthusiastic about digital health and are ready to embrace it, even though the local digital health ecosystem is poorly developed and supported.
According to Agana-Nsiire Agana, Co-Founder, Ghana’s Dokita app, there is some form of openness in Ghana to technology, especially in the healthcare sector.
“I see certain openness to the use of technology. I’ve seen a few implementations of technology in healthcare in Ghana – some led by the government, even though access is still an issue. But I’ve seen a few good signs,” he said.
According to him, the potential of digital health in Ghana is evident in the observation of several local startups that are generating revenues.
“There is definitely an appetite. In fact, if anything at all, I think our local people are willing to do it because psychologically it seems like it is the next thing for them to do stuffs online. They see it happening in the western countries and they want to do it also,” he said.
While the country is yet to have a well-structured digital health industry, he said healthcare professionals in the country, especially those that belong to the youth demographic are already using digital mediums to provide some consultation services for close patients, friends, families and relatives.
“It is much easier for doctors in Ghana to embrace digital health because most of them had already been answering people’s health questions through Whatsapp and Facebook, especially their friends. Ghanaian doctors have already been using technology. What is now lacking is to have everything in a very central and organized way, especially for the future for people to be able to access information about a particular health condition and doctor.
“A lot of our doctors are young, although we have several middle-aged doctors and those that are close to retirement. A lot of the young doctors are much more comfortable with technology. They have mobile devices and they are online more frequently.”
He however agreed that citizens would embrace services that are not just offering them information about their health conditions, but are also helping them to get treated.
“They want to be able to get help in booking an appointment to see a doctor,” he told nuviun.
While citizens are enthusiastic to use new digital health services – and willing to pay for them, he said infrastructural challenges are a significant setback.
“Willingness of users to pay for the service is not the problem, what is still missing is the infrastructure to easily make payments,” he said.
He also said the government, which is the largest consumer of digital health solutions, is also not supporting the local industry. Instead, it is patronizing large multinational companies that digital health startups in Ghana cannot favorably compete with.
“Because of that, it is hard to sustain a locally driven industry. Ghanaian government needs to understand they can’t buy everything from Microsoft and other giants from abroad. They need to engage entrepreneurs on the ground in Ghana who know how to interact with the people,” he said.
According to him, the biggest variable is the belief in local capacity on the side of the biggest consumer -- the government, which is also the biggest driver of the agenda.
“There is very little track confidence in the ability of local companies to deliver what I consider hi-tech digital health solutions,” he said.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.