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Fighting illegal hospital charges with WhatsApp: A Ghana story

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Many public hospitals in the country continue to battle the issue of illegal fee charges without clear strategies to stifle the situation. The best so far, is the display of notices placed on walls of these hospitals asking patients to seek for receipts on any payments made, but that ends there, who and where to report to remains the good old ”suggestion boxes”. This  is clearly a telling on the ill customer care in public health facilities across the country.

And like a redefinition to the narration, here is the contrast.

On the walls surrounding the Krachi West district hospital, in the Volta North – is a sharp painting displaying its ”complaint desk”.

The first of its a kind, this public health facility uses a rather mobile, interactive and quick means, the popular messaging application WhatsApp (and viber) to check illegal charges at its facility – asking clients to report immediately with text, photos, video or voice formats.

WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for use on all smartphones including an iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Android and Nokia.

This is what greets any visitor, client coming and going out of the hospital.

Whatsapp Health illegal charges
At the front view of the Krachi West District Hospital, north of the Volta Region

Barely a year old into this ‘innovation’, the hospital has not only been able to clamp down on illegal charges in the hospital but also reduce patient waiting time, encouraged open conversation among staff and easy way to authenticate donations – recent been some wheelchairs from an individual in the community.

Confident looking Mandela Washington Fellow, Dr Abiwu Hilarius Asiwome, who is the Medical Superitendent of the facility spoke to Ghanahealthnest’s Kobby Blay in an interview, that this became necessary owing to the fact that management of the hospital could not keep its eyes every where. He was shocked however about the response it has received, in that it has become the first line for complaints from staff and patients.The WhatsApp platform includes groups for clients who patronize their service as well as any member of the community interested.

The activity aims to equally improve transparency between management, stakeholders and feedback from general community especially those who patronize the facility to improve their services.

The 2010 Population Census figures from the Ghanastats.gov.gh reveals that ownership of mobile phones in Volta region stands at 540,623 persons while that of the District stands at 7,825. The ownership of mobile phone in Krachi West is 24.8 percent lower than the regional average of 37.3 percent.

Irrespective of these relative small statistics (though expected to grow after five years), Dr. Abiwu says, attending to a single concern is one too many, capable of rippling over to influence other community members and general service delivery.

The hospital is currently working to scale up  to more interactive communication platforms such as facebook as a complementary means to improve service delivery.

The Krachi West District hospital since 2012 attends to an average of 40,000 cases, with Malaria, Anaemia, Intestinal Worms, Pneumonia and Hypertension as the top five cases at its Out Patient Department.

The hospital envisions to become a model district hospital and a center of Excellence in Ghana and beyond.

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