A web-based telemedicine system for low-resource settings 13 years on: insights from referrers and specialists
Background: One way to tackle health inequalities in resource-poor settings is to establish links between doctors and health professionals there and specialists elsewhere using web-based telemedicine. One such system run by the Swinfen Charitable Trust has been in existence for 13 years which is an unusually long time for such systems. Objective: We wanted to gain some insights into whether and how this system might be improved. Methods: We carried out a survey by questionnaire of referrers and specialists over a six months period. Results: During the study period, a total of 111 cases were referred from 35 different practitioners, of whom 24% were not doctors. Survey replies were received concerning 67 cases, a response rate of 61 per cent. Eightyseven per cent of the responding referrers found the telemedicine advice useful, and 78% were able to follow the advice provided. As a result of the advice received, the diagnosis was changed in 22% of all cases and confirmed in a further 18 per cent. Patient management was changed in 33 per cent. There was no substantial difference between doctors and non-doctors. During the study period, the 111 cases were responded to by 148 specialists, from whom 108 replies to the questionnaire were received, a response rate of 73 per cent. About half of the specialists (47%) felt that their advice had improved the management of the patients. There were 62 cases where it was possible to match up the opinions of the referrer and the consultants about the value of a specific teleconsultation. In 34 cases (55%) the referrers and specialists agreed about the value. However, in 28 cases (45%) they did not: specialists markedly underestimated the value of a consultation compared to referrers. Both referrers and specialist were extremely positive about the system which appears to be working well. Minor changes such as a clearer referral template and an improved web interface for specialists may improve it.
SiteringGlobal health action 6(2013) s. 1-8
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