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The Promise of Telemedicine

In developing countries, insufficient access to quality medical care undermines health outcomes and disadvantages entire generations. But as the successful implementation of a national telemedicine program in Ghana shows, well-planned digital solutions can help bring health coverage to those on the medical margins.

ACCRA/BASEL – In low- and middle-income countries, insufficient access to medical care undermines health outcomes and disadvantages entire generations. But, in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach communities, technology is revolutionizing patients’ engagement with modern medicine. In a remote corner of Ghana, one “telemedicine” program illustrates just how effective digital care can be when coverage is extended to those on the medical margins.

In 2011, our organizations launched Ghana’s first telemedicine pilot program, with the goal of creating a model for national expansion. Starting in the country’s Amansie West District in the Ashanti Region, about 330 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of the capital, Accra, we sought to improve the quality of care in isolated areas, reduce transport times to hospitals, and lower patient costs.

The program, designed in collaboration with global telecommunications providers, universities, and NGOs, initially covered 30 rural communities, and connected some 35,000 people to health-care professionals through a staffed call center. By linking these communities to a communications hub, nurses, doctors, and specialists were digitally available 24 hours a day, offering immediate support to patients and community-based health workers (CHWs).

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