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Perceptions and attitudes of patients and healthcare workers towards the use of telemedicine in Botswana: An exploratory study

HumanInsight Perceptions and attitudes of patients and healthcare workers towards the use of telemedicine in Botswana: An exploratory study

PLoS One. 2023 Feb 16;18(2):e0281754. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281754. eCollection 2023.


INTRODUCTION: In March 2020, the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness approved a National eHealth Strategy. Although a milestone, the strategy does not mention telemedicine. There is need to address this by developing an evidence-based adjunct strategy for telemedicine to facilitate its introduction and adoption. To do so, several stages of a published eHealth Strategy Development Framework were mimicked. This allowed situational awareness to be created through exploring behavioural factors and perceptions that might influence the adoption of telemedicine in Botswana. The study aim was to explore current issues, concerns, perceptions, attitudes, views, and knowledge of patients and healthcare professionals regarding health-related issues and telemedicine that might influence implementation of telemedicine in Botswana and thereby inform future development of a telemedicine strategy.

METHODS: An exploratory survey study was conducted using different survey questionnaires for patients and healthcare professionals, each using a mix of open- and closed-ended questions. These questionnaires were administered to convenience samples of healthcare professionals and patients at 12 public healthcare facilities in Botswana; seven clinics (three rural; four urban), and five hospitals (two primary, two district, and one tertiary), selected to align with the country's decentralised healthcare structure.

RESULTS: Fifty-three healthcare professionals and 89 patients participated. Few healthcare professionals had actively used telemedicine for clinical consults and self-education using telephone calls, cell phone apps, or video conferencing (doctors 42%, nurses 10%). Only a few health facilities had telemedicine installations. Healthcare professional preference for future telemedicine uses were e-learning (98%), clinical services (92%), and health informatics (electronic records (87%). All healthcare professionals (100%) and most patients (94%) were willing to use and participate in telemedicine programmes. Open-ended responses showed additional perspective. Resource shortages (health human resources and infrastructure) were key to both groups. Convenience, cost effectiveness, and increased remote patient access to specialists were identified as enablers to telemedicine use. However inhibitors were cultural and traditional beliefs, although privacy, security and confidentiality were also identified. Results were consistent with findings from other developing countries.

CONCLUSION: Although use, knowledge, and awareness of telemedicine are low, general acceptance, willingness to use, and understanding of benefits are high. These findings bode well for development of a telemedicine-specific strategy for Botswana, complementary to the National eHealth Strategy, to guide more systematic adoption and application of telemedicine in the future.

PMID:36795740 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0281754

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