Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has disclosed that beginning from next year, Ghana’s partner in the rapid delivery of medical supplies to health facilities with drones, Zipline will be delivering medical supplies to homes as well.
He said currently Zipline has four distribution centers across the country and they do up to 100 flights every day, delivering various medical supplies to health facilities as and when the supplies are needed.
According to him, even though the Zipline medical supplies delivery service in Ghana is the biggest in the world to date, plans are far advanced to add two more distribution centers by the close of this year and another two will be added next years so that the entire country will be well covered.
He said, going forward, “leveraging on Ghana’s digital address system, Zipline will deliver medical supplies to homes, dropping supplies to people’s doorsteps by close of the year – this will be the first ever in the world.”
Dr. Bawumia was delivering a lecture on Digital Economy at the Ashesi University, as part of his Bawumia Speaks Lecture Series.
He spoke extensive on how far government has come with the digital Ghana agenda, laying out all the digital systems being built to position Ghana on a strong footing to advance into a digital economy.
The Vice President said the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led government has, since 2017 been building the components of a central digitalize system which provides addresses for properties and locations, promotes transparency and accountability, provides efficient public services, tackles corruption, improves efficiency in the health and education sectors, enhances domestic revenue mobilization/tax collection and provides financial inclusion and a cash-lite economy.
He explained extensively how the digitalization process has impacted health delivery, health insurance, pharmaceutical service delivery and indeed medical supplies delivery among many things.
The Vice President lauded the young Ghanaians at Zipline whose efficiency in delivering medical supplies with drones has helped to save many lives across the country.
He is confident that with the upcoming additional distribution centers at Anum in the Eastern Region, Ketecrachi in the Oti Region, Kintampo in the Bono Region and Fulsi in the Upper West Region, Zipline would be able to easily cover the entire country.
“Recently the US government contracted Zipline to provide similar services in the US – this is a clear sign that Ghana’s decision to partner Zipline for the medical supplies delivery was the right thing to do,” he said.
On healthcare delivery, the Vice President noted that when NPP came to power in 2017, health records were paper based and cumbersome to fill, file and manage, hence patients’ health records were often misfiled or misplaced and that caused delays, which were sometime fatal, and also impacted negatively on public confidence in the public health system.
He noted however that digitalization of medical records alone has improved healthcare delivery immensely, saying that, so far, all teaching and regional hospitals have been connected digitally, and work is ongoing to connect district hospitals as well.
“The integration we have done so far means that if you are, for instance, referred from any of the regional hospitals to Korle Bu in Accra or Komfo Anokye in Kumasi, you do not need to carry your folder across the country because all your details are digitalized so it can be accessed at any of the teaching hospitals for treatment to continue seamlessly,” he said. “No more missing folders – efficiency and productivity in the healthcare delivery system has been improved.”
Touching on the digitalization of the national health insurance system, he noted that the registration and renewal process was manual and highly inefficient, caused long delays and revenue leakage. But digitalization has cut out the delays and sealed the revenue leakages.
He explained that now renewal is done by individuals via their mobile phones in the comfort of their homes and offices. It is instant and the money paid via mobile money goes straight into government accounts.
“Since we digitalized the NHIS registration and renewal, there has been 70 per cent jump in renewal rate and 41 per cent increase in new registrations,” he said.
The Vice President also said government noticed, on coming to office that, Ghanaians often had a difficulty in finding particular drugs in several pharmacies and sometimes, patients are directly from hospitals to particular pharmacies where the drugs are very expensive because they have no choice.
There was also the challenge of patients’ inability to determine the authenticity of drugs, and some people’s propensity to use one manual prescription to buy often abused drugs like Tramadol and others several times.
“What we did was to challenge the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana and the Pharmacy Council to assist in the development of a digital platform for all pharmacies in the country to help solve those problems,” he said. “I am happy to inform you that the platform has been completed and and 45 pharmacies have been piloted.”
The platform allows patients to upload their prescription digitally and find where the prescribed drugs are available and where it is most affordable. Patients can also choose to pick the drug up by themselves or request for paid delivery service.
It also eliminates the paper prescriptions and replaces that with a onetime code, which elapses once the drug is sold to the patient once. This prevents the abuse of drugs like Tramadol and others.
Dr. Bawumia said Ghana is the first to establish a national scale e-Pharmacy platform in Africa and it will be mainstreamed before the close of this year so that all pharmacies in the country can serve patients via the platform.
The Vice President is confident that with the digitalization of medical supplies delivery, healthcare delivery, health insurance and the e-pharmacy platform, Ghana’s health system is poised to be one of the best in the world once the planned physical infrastructure is delivered.
He said digitalization is not a quick fix solution to national development, but rather a means that deliver long-term benefits, and it only takes a visionary leader to look beyond his immediate political fortunes and invest heavily in digitalization with the long-term future of the country in mind. For that he lauded President Akufo-Addo for his visionary leadership.