Innovating with technology: How doctors in Nkwanta are using WhatsApp to improve healthcare

Innovating with technology: How doctors in Nkwanta are using WhatsApp to improve healthcare

The use of WhatsApp has helped doctors in delivering better healthcare to the people of Nkwanta in the Volta Region.

Medical officers busy on their phones while patients wait to be attended to may be deemed unethical, but in Nkwanta and Dambai in the Volta Region, it can be the crucial moment where someone is being saved. 

Dr. Kwaku Appiagyei, acting medical superintendent of Nkwanta South Municipal Hospital, has created two WhatsApp platforms : one to manage maternal cases, and the other for surgical cases.

It stems from the need of health practitioners in more than 30 primary and secondary health facilities scattered between the Nkawanta North and South municipalities, as well as in the nearby town of Dambai, to have a common platform enabling them to pull resources to care for the ill in those areas. 

Reports of how patients die because medical facilities have no beds continue to shock the nation. The most recent is the case of the 70-year-old man who died after seven hospitals rejected him, citing the lack of beds.

Read: Persons implicated in ‘No-bed-death’ of 70-year-old to face sanction

But in his determination to make a difference, Dr. Appiagyei, popularly known as “Ronaldo,” thought it would be wise to bring the practitioners together to coordinate their activities and better serve the people under their care. The entire Nkwanta area constitutes approximately 25% of the land mass of the Volta Region.

It is why Appiagyei created the messaging platform, which has helped to manage an estimated 8,000 patients that visit the facilities. Since June 2017, only one maternal mortality has been recorded across Nkwanta North and South because of the platform. 

Dr. Kwaku Appiagyei (in African print)

The initial target was to record zero cases, a goal they attained until June 2018 when they recorded one fatality.

Most maternal deaths in Ghana are preventable and according to UNICEF, about 65% of them are mostly due to lack of access to essential reproductive health services. These essential services include family planning, skilled attendance at childbirth, administration of oxytocin and misoprostol for management of postpartum haemorrhage, and magnesium sulphate for treatment of pregnancy-induced hypertensive disorders.

Read: Women in Battle: Life and death at the hands of men with pregnant wives

Appiagyei said Dambai was added to the platforms because the entire district assembly does not have a hospital, a situation that requires people there to seek medical care from facilities in the Nwanta area.

Despite the ingenuity of Appiagyei, they still face challenges, he said on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM Wednesday.

“We don’t have a lot of staff,” but because they have been coordinating together, it seems to be working well, he said.

“There are times that we do cases that are above our qualification,” he told host of the Show, Daniel Dadzie. “When we are overwhelmed, people can agree to be nursed on the floor…and we can also get beds from other units when they are not in use,” he added.

“We continue to sacrifice as each and every health worker is doing,” he continued, and pleaded with clients not to be upset when they see medical officers spending some time on their mobile devices at certain times when visit any of the 32 health facilities at various locations within their coverage area.

“Our clients should understand that it is not as if the health workers don’t have anything at the hospital…most of the time we may be doing tracking of cases,” he stated.

Listen to Dr. Kwaku Appiagyei in the audio attached:

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