Empirical Study of Telemedicine Readiness in the Healthcare Sector in Developing Countries

Empirical Study of Telemedicine Readiness in the Healthcare Sector in Developing Countries

Ali Abdullrahim, Rebecca DeCoster
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJTHI.2021040103
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Healthcare providers have reasons to consider telemedicine technologies when determining the best practices for service provision. The use of such technologies in developing countries is still limited, and it is important to examine the readiness to telemedicine solutions at an organisational level in developing countries such as Libya in order to provide healthcare services. Therefore, a model was proposed and validated to assess telemedicine readiness in Libya from the healthcare providers' perspective. Healthcare providers' operational capability and telemedicine outcome expectations were also investigated. The results highlight that the level of telemedicine readiness could be influenced by various health-specific organisational factors including organisational capabilities and resources. The findings of this research are that various organisational factors have an impact on telemedicine readiness and thus on the implementation of such technology including healthcare providers' human resources, IT infrastructure, perceived ease of use, and prospective healthcare providers.
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Severe resource constraint is a major issue in designing and managing healthcare services in developing and developed nations alike and it is vital to ensure that the limited resources are wisely spent so as to achieve the maximum returns for minimum spending (Lindskog, Hemphälä & Eriksson, 2015; Mackert, Whitten & Krol, 2010; Whitten, Holtz & Nguyen, 2010; El-Taguri et al., 2008). The healthcare systems in developing countries are confronted with challenges and barriers such as infrastructure and technology issues, cost-effectiveness, growing population including increasing numbers of senior citizens whose healthcare system should pay closer attention to them, shortages of medical and non-medical staff in providing healthcare services to healthcare users (Paim et al., 2011).

World Health Organisation (WHO) in its global observatory for e-Health series (WHO, 2010) stated that Telemedicine, a term created in 1970s, which literally means “healing at a distance”, signifies the use of information communication technology to improve patient outcomes by increasing access to healthcare. Recent developments of communications and mobile networks allowed establishing mobile Telemedicine projects across different parts of the world. As per the study of Bashshur et al. (2005), Telemedicine activities have expanded in developed countries. It has been observed that Telemedicine facilitates save transport bills incurred for the transfer of patients to medical care. On the other hand, rural Telemedicine was designed for supporting healthcare in rural areas where healthcare provision was insufficient (Glascock & Kutzik, 2000).

For example, in the Australian healthcare sector, the confrontation of several challenges has usually become the key reason for access of specialist services in regional and rural communities. The choices of healthcare for patients in both regional and rural areas are limited, especially for patients having chronic or acute illnesses (Smith, 2004). Furthermore, there are management issues such as service users and medical staff that have to travel to central healthcare institutions or clinics in major cities for periods of one to two days and then return to reach regional healthcare centres and these periods of travel are valuable time–wise to most clinicians and other medical staff and healthcare users. (Smith & Gray, 2009; Smith, 2004). It has been further reported that the UK is well positioned in many elements of Telemedicine technologies and has the potential to grow into a global leader in this section. However, there are numbers of challenges including shortages of IT and analytical capabilities and difficulties in funding. The government also plays a key role in providing the infrastructure, such as regulatory frameworks and information governance, to support the growth of the sector (Standing & Hampson 2015).

According to Wootton (2009), developing countries may have a lot to both gain and lose from Telemedicine projects. They may gain from providing better access to healthcare services to large, underserved populations. On the other hand, such projects would require substantial time, effort and needed financial resources to invest in Telemedicine infrastructure to the level required to provide healthcare services, which is likely to accumulate debts and potentially divert financial resources away from already overstretched conventional healthcare services. It may be argued that the developing countries present the greatest opportunities to gain from Telemedicine as these countries lack legacy healthcare systems and could accept Telemedicine technologies comparatively easily. With more than 80% of the world’s population living in developing and the least developed countries, there is a sound case to study Telemedicine solutions in these countries before implementation (Wootton, 2009).

There is a lack of studies in the literature regarding the use of Telemedicine in Libya to treat and manage diseases and this suggests the need to assess the Readiness to accept and eventually implement and sustain Telemedicine projects. Additionally, Telemedicine solutions, such as electronic medical records, are not deployed yet in Libya’s health institutions. These might develop management of clinicians, decrease inefficiency, improve effectiveness and overall healthcare provision, and increase safety (WHO, 2007). Such technologies may have positive implications on healthcare access, especially to people in rural areas and patients with chronic diseases and further reshape the healthcare system in Libya.

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