Ghana Telemedicine Program

Partnership objectives

The goals of this program were to expand access to quality care for populations in remote rural areas to reduce transport times and costs for patients and to avoid unnecessary referrals.

The Telemedicine Program in Ghana is one of many examples that demonstrate the value of digital health  in improving healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries. The Telemedicine Program in Ghana is one of many examples that demonstrate the value of digital health in improving healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries. Copyright Novartis Foundation

What are the health needs and challenges?

Access to healthcare for people in low- and middle-income countries is challenging. Patients in remote areas of Ghana face geographical barriers to health services – including poor transport networks, limited access to healthcare providers, and inadequately resourced health facilities – and experience high mortality and morbidity rates for diseases that may be easily treated. For patients in the Bonsaaso cluster in the Amansie-West District of the Ashanti Region, traveling to access medical services and consultation could be as far as 40 kilometers.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

To deliver better quality care at the place where people need it, the Novartis Foundation pioneered a telemedicine model in Ghana, together with several partners.

The telemedicine model is developed around the frontline health worker, with digital technology allowing for the centralization of healthcare expertise. The doctors, experienced nurses and midwives, who are staffing the teleconsultation center at the referral hospital 24/7, are coaching and guiding less-skilled community health workers in their patient care. This not only empowers community health workers, it also improves quality of care with a direct impact on patient health outcomes. In 2016 for example, more than half of all teleconsultations could be resolved directly by phone, including 31% that avoided referrals.

Lessons learned                         

Telemedicine in Ghana is one of many examples that demonstrate the value of digital health in improving healthcare systems in developing countries. ICTs have the potential to address several of the health challenges facing developing countries by providing cost-effective solutions. 

Digital health solutions help to better connect people around the world – be they health workers in remote areas that need to consult with their peers and doctors, or patients that need to connect with medical specialists for advice.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

The initiative is now successfully scaling throughout Ghana. This is fully attributable to the strong local ownership of the Ghana health authorities, who quickly saw the true potential of this telemedicine model because of its simplicity, efficiency and impact. The model was pioneered in the Amansi West region by the joint efforts of the Ghana Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service, the National Health Insurance Authority, the Ambulance Services of Ghana, Millennium Promise and the Novartis Foundation. It has been selected by the health authorities, out of seven other telemedicine models piloted in Ghana, as the preferred option to be implemented throughout the country. National roll-out has already started, with telemedicine services currently covering 25 districts in five regions. In 2017, the Ghana Health Service will also be installing telemedicine services in the greater Accra region, with the goal to reach national coverage by the end of the year.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Novartis

Partner(s) Ambulance Services of Ghana, Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Ministry of Health, Millennium Promise, National Health Insurance Authority, Ghana, Novartis Foundation

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Government, NGOs, Other Business

Therapeutic Focus Other, Infectious Diseases, Women and Children's Health

Disease(s) Children's Health, General Health, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Women's Health

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - Development of Physical Infrastructure, Health System Infrastructure - mHealth, Health System Infrastructure - Outreach & Medical Services

Targeted Population(s) Health professionals

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) Ghana

Start Date 2012

More information Novartis Foundation

Anticipated completion date Ongoing