Saudi Arabia is a developing country faced with numerous economic, political and societal challenges. The country’s healthcare sector is in serious need of improvement due tofactors like a dilapidated transport network, suppression of women’s rights, the existence of many foreign nationals and health centers which are clustered around population centers and thus unequal to the task of providing convenient, prompt healthcare to some sections of the population. The introduction of a mobile application to manage a chronic disease such as diabetes could make it easier for patients to manage their illness and communicate with their healthcare specialists remotely; thus reducing the expense and time involved in attending appointments; as well as receiving vital information on areas such as diet, exercise and blood glucose monitoring alerts.
Extensive applications in mHealth are being used globally with some success. However, Saudi Arabia has its own limitationsand is a very specific social and cultural context,and this study aims to fill the knowledge gap in the literature about how such mHealth technology would be accepted by Saudi diabetics, doctors and diabetes specialists; and a specially adapted theoretical model of technology acceptance was used. Male and female specialist doctors were interviewed and patients and doctors surveyedby means of an online questionnaire. All participants were asked to watch a short video,especially designed by the researcher to fit the Saudi context, about the functions of a diabetes management application.This primary data is a vital contribution to the understanding of the problems faced at present by Saudi diabetics in receiving adequate care and self-managing their illness, as well as providing an insight into the current state of technology acceptance for mHealth applications in Saudi Arabia.
Findings reveal that both doctors and patients are generally positive about using a diabetes mHealth application but some wouldneed training, and there were concerns about privacy issues and whether its use would make more work for doctors.Culture, gender, age, education levels, income and locationwere found to impact adoption of technology in the Saudi context. The study seeks to make practical recommendations for Saudi healthcare providers and recommends starting with an IVR system based on the COSMOS Model, which addresses many of the challenges in self-management of diabetes. Furthermore, the diabetes management application ‘Glucose Buddy’ was evaluated and findings suggest that with incentives and training, this could be successfully implemented.
Face-to-face communication is a major limitation in mHealth but at least patients receive care between appointments, and female patients unwilling to see male specialists can receive information and contact their hospital. The study concludes that mHealth is workable in Saudi Arabia and the model is scalable; as literacy and educational level rises, more sophisticated applications could be used. Finally, the study notes its limitations and uses them to make recommendations for further research.
|Date of Award||2016|