Ghana and Africa as a whole faces a number of big challenges to healthcare delivery. A large part of the healthcare mandate depends on access not only to facilities and treatment, but also simply to empowering, life-saving information. This is often lacking or difficult to access in Africa.
Dokita is an online application that is helping to improve the access people in Ghana have to quality health information. It achieves this by providing a platform for people to have conversations with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The service currently runs in Ghana, but has a long-term pan-African outlook.
Solving A Problem
In Ghana, most people only see a doctor when they are sick and visit a hospital or clinic. Once there the conversation focuses on a medical history, which is usually followed by a written prescription. Many patients actually leave the hospital not knowing exactly what is wrong with them and why the doctor thinks so. That leaves a lot of room for discussion amongst friends and family, and an attendant myriad of counter diagnoses and theories on what could be wrong.
The Internet has made it much easier to access credible information on health. But while this is true, it is still difficult to find accurate information for a specific set of symptoms, conditions and medical history.
Across Africa, outside the setting of a hospital consultation, there are few effective ways of sourcing, filtering and managing health related information, particularly the kind provided by trained professionals. Such tools are necessary because Africa presents its own unique health challenges, not to mention the cultural dimension to how information is exchanged between professionals and consumers. Currently available options do not mirror this cultural dimension into the digital world very well.
Information systems aside, access to doctors across Africa is notoriously difficult. In Ghana, the doctor-patient ratio is about eight thousand people to one doctor. The ratio is worse when we consider specialists and other supporting medical and health experts.
Information delivery is a crucial part of the good healthcare, and so Africa must find ways to maximize the impact that its doctors have through responsible information sharing on a large scale. Dokita seeks to achieve exactly that.
Here, once again, the Internet is helping to ease the burden and widen access. Doctors are now actively engaging with patients online, using social media, email and mobile chat. These platforms offer an important bridge between national efforts at increasing the number of doctors available to the public and the increasing demand for high quality healthcare within the growing population. Specifically amongst the burgeoning middle class there is increased demand for round the clock availability, and the concept of the family doctor is beginning to gain relevance.
While it is helpful to be able to reach a doctor on Facebook or Whatsapp and other social media, there are a number of limitations:
- You must know the doctor or at least be connected online
- The number of doctors you can address with a give question is limited as a result
- It is difficult to separate health related discussions from general chat
- The benefit of peer review is often lost
- Public access to non-sensitive but useful health information is limited
How Dokita Works
Dokita is a web and mobile application that gives users access to a large network of doctors in Ghana, across Africa and the world at large. It was born out of a conversation on how to help people get access to good health advice outside of the hospital setting. The service facilitates access to quality health information and experts. With Dokita users can:
- Get answers to their health questions
- Get multiple opinions on their questions
- Subscribe to information on topics that interest them.
- They can also schedule hospital appointments with their doctors.
This allows users to access quality information for making good health choices. Dokita aims to improve access to quality health information in Ghana and across Africa, thereby creating a healthier continent. We want to change the way health information is accessed in Africa, making it more instant, more reliable, and constantly available.
In addition, the application provides a single hub for managing your personal health. It allows users to:
- Follow and subscribe to information on health topics of interest to them
- Follow doctors and build a personal medical team
- Upload relevant health documents securely
Health facilities are not left out. Private practices as well as public health facilities will soon be able to market their services on the platform.
Work in Progress
The Dokita team views the service as an ongoing learning process. They believe that innovation in health, which is a traditional sector with a long history of manual, offline and bureaucratic processes, will require a lot of patience and research driven experimentation. The key will be building and nurturing the right relationships in healthcare across Africa, which Dokita has managed to do well so far in Ghana. The application has been in public beta for the past five months and the team is still taking user feedback at [email protected]
Going forward, they plan to release applications for various mobile platforms including Android and iOS. They also plan to expand the reach of services to other African countries, following early success in the Ghanaian market.