A former Government Statistician, Dr Grace Bediako, has observed that healthcare delivery in the country could improve significantly, if Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was used to generate data on patients for proper decision making.
She said the current situation where data and personal records of patients were usually paper-based made it difficult for proper planning, monitoring and evaluation of healthcare systems.
New Year School
Dr Bediako made the observation yesterday when she chaired a symposium on the topic, “Data collection for health; the role of ICT”, on the third day of the ongoing 67th Annual New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana, Legon.
Other topics discussed during the day were: “Creating the enabling environment for ICT and health” and “Leveraging ICT to improve reproductive health”.
Dr Bediako said data analysed in the country’s health sector were sometimes untimely; usually incomplete and inaccurate to be used for the purpose for which they were collected.
She called for concerted efforts to include the use of ICT in health delivery, “if we want to be able to get the quality of data, we need to improve healthcare delivery.”
The statistician further called on all stakeholders in the health sector to harmonise their data systems to improve on efficiency in data collection and management.
Dr Bediako, who is currently with the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), said for the country to realise the full benefits of ICT in health delivery, there was the need to incorporate ICT in the training of doctors, nurses and other health professionals to enable them to apply those skills effectively after their education.
“Even though this will make training programmes more elaborate and complicated, we need to train our student doctors and nurses in ICT because we should not always be catching up in ICT. We need to take the lead and we can do this by reviewing our health training programmes,” she said.
Slow ICT growth
A fellow in Scientific Computing at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre, Ernest Ofori, said the world was fast moving from an information society to a smart society but observed that Ghana had still not caught up with the information society after struggling for close to a decade.
“First of all, we need to catch up with the information society we promised ourselves a decade ago so that we can move into the smart society. We need to catch up,” he said, adding that for that transformation to happen, the government needed to invest in building the necessary infrastructure.
He said although some efforts were being made in the provision of infrastructure such as the development of a national data centre and ICT centres in schools, more needed to be done in order to catch up with global trends.
Besides, Mr Ofori said, it was important for the state to invest in the development of content as well as put in place the right governance systems to manage security.
He stressed the need to develop the capacity of health workers to enable them to put data systems to good use, while raising awareness to help the public in the use of such technologies to improve healthcare delivery.
He said there was the need to invest in building infrastructure to generate data, process the data, manage records, distribute information and build analysis to improve health care.
“We cannot leave it to health professionals alone to do it. Neither can we leave it to our technical people alone. Even if you build infrastructure, you need someone who knows how to build and manage software. All these structures need to be put in place if we want to catch up,” he added.