Knowledge, beliefs and practices of dietitians and doctors in South Africa on the use of the internet in healthcare

Najaar, Baheya (2009-12)

Thesis (MNutr (Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. Human Nutrition))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

Background: In Africa, internet access and use is plagued by numerous barriers. Whilst South Africa (SA) boasts a better population penetration than the rest of Africa there is a lack of regulation regarding the internet and e-mail use amongst health professionals and their patients. The aim of this study was to assess the use of the internet amongst dietitians and medical doctors (MDs) in clinical practice in SA and draft a policy on such usage amongst health professionals and their patients. Methods: A cross-sectional analytical web-based survey was conducted amongst registered dietitians and MDs. A cover letter including a hyperlink to the self-administered questionnaire was e-mailed to all dietitians and a proportionate, stratified random sample of MDs with contactable e-mail addresses. The questionnaire consisted of open and closed questions, including demographics, influence of the internet on the quality of care of patients, quality control with web resources and aspects of information technology (IT) which were recommended by health professionals to be incorporated as part of undergraduate health science education Results: A total of 176 health professionals participated in the study (106 dietitians and 70 MDs). The mean age of the dietitians was 32.6± (8.0) and the MDs 50.5± (8.9). The majority of the respondents in this study population were White (82%) females (67%). On average, practitioners had been in practice for 9.1(8.0) years. The majority of dietitians (58%) and MDs (68%) had access to the internet at both their practice or workplace and their home. More dietitians (65%) than MDs (41%) were using e-mail or internet. MDs did not use the internet for research purposes, whilst a fifth of dietitians (21%) reported using the internet as a research tool. A greater percentage of the sample [MDs (69%) and dietitians (82%)] reported that, the internet had improved the quality of care of their patients. The dietitians (60%) and MDs (53%) in this study sample were unclear about how to source information and determine the reliability or accuracy of the information obtained from internet resources. Conclusion: Internet is incorporated into the practice of most dietitians and to a lesser extent by MDs. In this study, the need for training amongst health professionals regarding the use of the internet was highlighted. The study reflects that even though health professionals were unsure of the credibility of the internet information resourced, it did not stop the use of the internet in the practice. This is an area of concern, since it could potentially result in the distribution of misinformation. This warrants regulation on the use of the internet in health practices in SA. A policy on the use of IT in health care practice has been drafted. Further research on the use of IT in the healthcare practice is required before the policy can be finalized. The advantage is that some elementary information is now available. The challenge is to ensure that the time lapse between additional research, policy finalization and policy implementation is kept to a minimum.

OPSOMMING: Agtergrond: In Afrika is internet toegang en gebruik met baie hindernisse belas. Alhoewel Suid-Afrika (SA) met ‘n beter bevolkingspenetrasie as die res van Afrika spog is daar ‘n gebrek aan regulasie in verband met internet en e-pos gebruik tussen gesondheidswerkers en hul pasiënte. Die doel van hierdie studie was om die gebruik van die internet deur dieetkundiges en mediese dokters (MDs) in kliniese praktyk in SA te assesseer en om ‘n konsepbeleid rakende sulke gebruik tussen gesondheidswerkers en hul pasiënte op te stel. Metode: ‘n Dwarssnit analitiese web-gebaseerde opname is met geregisteerde dieetkundiges en MDs onderneem. ‘n Dekkingsbrief met ‘n webskakeling (hyperlink) tot die selfgeadministreerde vraelys is aan alle dieetkundiges en aan ‘n eweredig, gestratifiseerde ewekansige steekproef van MDs met kontakbare e-pos adresse gestuur. Die vraelys het uit oop en toe vrae bestaan, insluitend demografie, invloed van die internet op die kwaliteit van sorg van pasiënte, kwaliteitskontrole met web-hulpmiddels en aspekte van informasie tegnologie (IT) wat deur gesondheidswerkers aanbeveel was om deel te word van voorgraadse gesondheidswetenkaplike onderrig. Resultate: ‘n Totaal van 176 gesondheidswerkers het aan die studie deelgeneem (106 dieetkundiges en 70 MDs). Die gemiddelde ouderdom van die dieetkundiges was 32.6± (8.0) jaar en die MDs 50.5± (8.9) jaar. Die meerderheid respondente in hierdie studie populasie was blank (82%) en vroulik (67%). Oor die algemeen was praktisyne vir 9.1± (8.0) jaar in praktyk. Die meerderheid dieetkundiges (58%) en MDs (68%) het toegang tot die internet by beide hul praktyk of werkplek en hul huis. Meer dieetkundiges (65%) as MDs (41%) het e-pos of internet gebruik. MDs het nie die internet vir navorsingsdoeleindes gebruik nie, terwyl ‘n vyfde van dieetkundiges (21%) raporteer het dat hulle die internet vir navorsingsdoeleindes gebruik het. ‘n Groot persentasie van die populasie [MDs (69%) en dieetkundiges (82%)] het gerapporteer dat die internet tot ‘n verbetering in sorg van hul pasiënte gelei het. Die dieetkundiges (60%) en MDs (53%) in hierdie studie was onseker hoe om informasie te verkry en die betroubaarheid en akuraatheid van die informasie vanaf internetbronne te bevestig. Opsomming: In hierdie studie word internet in die praktyke van die meerderheid dieetkundiges en tot ‘n mindere mate in die van MDs geinkorporeer. Die noodsaaklikheid vir opleiding in die gesondheidsberoepe met betrekking tot die gebruik van die internet is aan die lug gebring. Hierdie studie weerspieël dat alhoewel gesondheidswerkers onbewus was van die geloofwaardigheid van internet informasie, dit nie die gebruik van die internet in hul praktyk gestop het nie. Dit is ‘n area van kommer aangesien dit potensieel na die verspreiding van misinformasie kan lei. Dit motiveer dus reguleering van die gebruik van die internet in gesondheidspraktyke in SA. ‘n Beleid oor die gebruik van IT in gesondheidspraktyke is in konsepvorm opgetrek. Verdere navorsing oor die gebuik van IT in gesondheidspraktyke word benodig om die konsepbeleid te finaliseer. Die voordeel is dat basiese inligting nou beskikbaar is. Die uitdaging is om te verseker dat die tydsduur tussen addisionele navorsing, beleidsfinaliseering en beleidsimplementering tot ‘n minimum gehou word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2808
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