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Original Research

Attitude and practice of primary care physician towards online consultation

Hanan Fahad Alotaybi, Emad Madani Al-Shareef, Raja Al-Raddadi.


Background: Internet technology is affecting many industries, including health care, and physicians are increasingly using email as a part of their workday.

Objectives: To determine the attitudes towards E-mail consultation among general practitioners and family physician in primary healthcare (PHC), Jeddah city, Saudi Arabia who reported practice of email consultations in general practice and to identify the factors or barrier influencing Email communication in different sector of primary health care in Jeddah.

Materials and Methods: . This cross-sectional study was conducted during a year Apri 2014 to April 2014. All general practitioners and family physicians of both gender and different nationality working at PHC centers, Jeddah city throughout the study period were included. Different attitudes of PHC physicians towards E-mail consultation with their patients was assesses through a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: The total number of selected physicians for the study was 150, about 127 of them responded to the study with respondent rate of 84%. Most of the respondents in this study were females (66.1%) versus 33.9% of males. General practitioners were 27.6% and 24.4% were consultants. Most of physicians (62 %) were not currently using computers at work site and only 38% exclusively use computer in the practice. Only 25 % had internet access and 45% had intranet. Physician attitude toward e-mailing patients was gen¬erally positive. About forty seven of respondents use e-mail to communicate with other GPs within the practice, (55%) with GPs outside the work place and (15%) with administrative staff. In this study using of email with international organization was highest (60%). About 31.5% of respondent physicians received an e-mail from their patients. Seventy percent of received e-mails were about medical consultation, 11% for repeated prescription, 11% for making an appointment, 32% for general medical consultation and 46 % for information about medical condition. Risk of confidentiality with email doesn’t emphasis worries in 18% of physicians. The majority expressed the view that there was sufficient time to respond to most of patient email 52 (43.7%). Moreover, about 17% of respondent considered e-mail use in clinical practice is an additional burden in an already onerous job.

Conclusion: The general attitude of physicians toward computer and internet use in work place was positive although the use of e-mail in medical consultations of patients was very limited.

Key words: E-mail; consultation; primary health care; physicians

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