Telemedicine takes off …millions to access health care via phone

Millions of Ghanaians will now be able to access health care and be attended to by qualified medical doctors via mobile phone, following issuance of the first telemedicine licence by the Health Facility Regulatory Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Health to BIMA.

The new innovation is expected to help address the growing gap in the doctor-patient ratio. Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – an intergovernmental economic NGO – estimates that there is at most one qualified physician per 1,000 people in Ghana.

The combination of soaring population and rising urbanisation is also driving higher demand for health care services, particularly as non-communicable disease such as diabetes and hypertension continue to rise.

Various sources estimate that Ghana’s population could reach 32.2million in 2020, with about 57 percent living in urban communities. This will only compound an existing housing crisis and with it an increase communicable diseases in densely populated slums in urban areas.

The telemedicine provided by BIMA Doctors uses disruptive mobile technology that digitises the user experience to deliver convenient, affordable and quality health services across the county, in view of the current poor doctor-patient ratio and future expected demand for medical care.

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BIMA Doctor saves customers’ money on transportation, consultation and lost income for the day, providing an immediate medical advisory service before the customer’s health condition worsens.

Fever, sore-throat, skin problems and diarrhoea are among the most common customer ailments. In most cases, the issue is resolved during the consultation. If the situation requires further investigation, or if there are signs/symptoms of severity, the patient is then referred to a hospital.

BIMA has launched a health-coaching programme delivering targetted health content via SMS and IVR, and now also provides e-prescriptions via SMS as well as access to Specialists -Dieticians and Gynaecologists – through its call centre.

Christina Tuemmers, Ghana mHealth Division Manager, BIMA explained that from as little as GHȼ3 per month BIMA Doctor subscribers can enjoy unlimited calls to a medical practitioner to seek advice and medical consultations over the phone.

“The tele-doctor service began operations in 2015 and has since registered around 100,000 customers. Receiving this licence is a confirmation of the high clinical standards and customer service which underpin delivery of the BIMA Doctor service.  It is the culmination of two years of development,” Ms. Tuemmers said.

Dr. David Sunu, Chief Medical Officer of BIMA Doctor, also noted that: “BIMA Doctor has a team of medical practitioners who are licenced by the Medical and Dental Council to practice medicine in Ghana. The team receives periodic training on telemedicine protocols to ensure the highest standards of medical quality. While delivering an affordable service, we also have a series of rigorous quality assurance measures in place to deliver a world-class medical service”.

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Damien Gueroult, BIMA Ghana Country Manager reveals: “We are proud of this milestone recognising the quality of our service, but we really believe we’re just at the start of this journey. We continue to enhance our telemedicine service and foresee increasing synergies with our insurance offering to provide a comprehensive health coverage to every Ghanaian”.

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