Perceptions, Preferences and Experiences of Telemedicine among Users of Information and Communication Technology in Saudi Arabia

Fares Alshammari, Sehar- un-Nisa Hassan

Abstract


Background: Healthcare organizations and ministry of health in Saudi Arabia are ambitious about
expanding telemedicine services as it promises to offer better access to healthcare services at a reduced
cost. However, there is need to obtain users’ perceptive to identify and address any personal, social
and cultural factors which limit its acceptance and usability in order to maximize its potential
outcomes.
Objectives: This study aims at assessing perceptions, preferences and experiences of telemedicine
among people from various rural and urban regions of Saudi Arabia.
Methods: A cross-sectional study, obtained data through pre-designed survey questionnaire,
distributed through various means of social media including Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram. The
online application tool used for data collection has additional feature of completing descriptive analysis
on data.
Results: A total of (N=781) participants including males and females from urban and rural regions of
Saudi Arabia completed the online survey. Although a large proportion of the respondents (70%)
subjectively acknowledged potential benefits of telemedicine and showed interest in using this
technique for healthcare. However (52%) of them have actually never used Seha an (e-health)
application by Ministry of Health. Around, (51%) reported to never use a phone to seek medical advice.
Significant variation of responses across gender, age, region, nationality, and employment status were
observed in relation to perceptions, preferences and experiences of telemedicine. A large proportion of
participants were reluctant to use telemedicine primarily for two reasons i.e. lack of trust on this
technique (29%) and being unable to know the doctor at personal level (30%). Around, (28%) reported
lack of awareness about any benefits of telemedicine. While, almost (30%) reported that they would
never prefer to consult any doctor through telemedicine.
Conclusion: At present, general public in Saudi Arabia have limited knowledge and experiences with
telemedicine. There is a need to be obtain general public trust in telemedicine in Saudi Arabia through
provision of greater knowledge and understanding of the potential advantages of telehealth. Adapting
the delivery of telemedicine services to local Saudi cultural and social values where focus is on building
close relationship with the provider may help in gaining trust and more acceptance for telemedicine.
Future studies should focus on assessing the perceptions and specific outcomes of telemedicine
interventions with specific populations such as old age health problems and children with special needs
to facilitate patients with mobility constraints.

Keywords


E-health; Informatics; Knowledge; Perceptions; Saudi Arabia; Telemedicine; Telehealth

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