Interview: Dr Elikem Tamaklo
In terms of investment, how attractive is Ghana’s health care sector?
DR ELIKEM TAMAKLO: Ghana is a very attractive market. It is underserved, and not just from a numbers perspective. The country needs more hospitals, and although the government has implemented new infrastructure, it is still not enough for the whole population – additional investment is required. Fortunately, there is a large number of private entities that have the potential to scale. In service provision, there is a lot of scope for adding more services. Many of these entities need to do more work to be ready for investors – for example, with clearer governance structures and better reporting of quality and safety indicators – but opportunities abound. Government investments are already visible, and I think more is required from the private sector. Entities such as the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre can play a pivotal role in this, especially taking into account that health care is a key focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Ministry of Health is also expected to play a role in bringing the public and the private sector closer together. The narrative of the government regarding incentivising the private sector is very positive, and the health care sector is no exception.
What can be done to improve the availability of trained clinical staff in Ghana?
TAMAKLO: There is a worldwide shortage of nurses and doctors; hence, retaining them is always a challenge. I believe that if we can provide a good quality of life, there will be fewer incentives to leave. Quality of life doesn’t only mean a higher salary. Factors like benefits, access to low-interest loans, and reasonable subsidies for cars and rent are also important, though total compensation will also be taken into account.
Another important tool for retaining key personnel and improving training is hospital partnerships, not only with hospitals from the UK, US or Europe, but also with countries like South Africa, where staff can move and return with new skills and a fresh perspective. Training needs to cover not only technical aspects, but also areas such as leadership, project management and ethics.
How much scope is there to increase medical tourism in the country?
TAMAKLO: Ghana is a potential hub for travel, finance and health care. Unfortunately, travelling around West Africa is difficult, though the situation has the potential to improve with airport expansion. A change in mindset is also necessary: tourism as a sector needs to be boosted. Customer service should be a priority, since Ghana will be competing with places like Pakistan, India and Dubai. Another focus area should be transparency of data for making meaningful comparisons with competitors. Ghana will also need to consider becoming accredited by bodies like Joint Commission International to be better placed to compete.
What is the potential for expanding telemedicine?
TAMAKLO: Mobile companies are playing a central role in the offering of innovative health care products. In addition, there are many start-ups offering free, open source options, using electronic medical records and management software to make medical appointments. Many of them are cloud based, some having appointments, text reminders and notifications. If we look at recent developments in fintech, we can identify an obvious trend towards democratising technology.
This also applies to health care. I would not be surprised if we had electronic medical records available in rural areas in a few years. The main challenge will be related to efficiency and balancing data protection. If data is stored in the cloud, certifications and approvals are going to be necessary if the services are located outside the country. However, many relevant players are based in Ghana and moving towards establishing data centres locally. These actors are ensuring that the risks associated with cybersecurity are mitigated.
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