BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2021 Mar 18;21(1):103. doi: 10.1186/s12911-021-01437-6.
BACKGROUND: The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia is expanding the country’s telemedicine services by using advanced technology in health services. In doing so, an e-health application (app), Seha, was introduced in 2018 that allows individuals to have face-to-face visual medical consultations with their doctors on their smartphones.
OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the effectiveness of the app in improving healthcare delivery by ensuring patient satisfaction with the care given, increasing access to care, and improving efficiency in the healthcare system.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study design was used to assess the perceptions of users of the Seha app and non-users who continued with traditional health services. The data were collected using an online survey via Google Forms between June 2020 and September 2020. Independent t tests and chi-square (χ2) tests were conducted to answer the research questions.
RESULTS: There was a significant difference between users and non-users in terms of ease of access to health services (t = – 9.38, p < 0.05), with app users having a higher mean score (4.19 ± 0.91) than non-users (3.41 ± 1.00); satisfaction with health services (t = – 6.33, p < 0.05), with users having a higher mean score (3.96 ± 0.91) than non-users (3.45 ± 0.94); and efficiency (only one visit needed for treatment) (t = – 3.20, p < 0.05), with users having a higher mean score (3.71 ± 0.93) than non-users (3.45 ± 0.93). There were significant associations between the use of the Seha app and age (χ2 = 8.79, p < 0.05), gender (χ2 = 22.19, p < 0.05), region (χ2 = 19.74, p < 0.05), and occupation (χ2 = 22.05, p < 0.05). There were significant relationships between the three items (on access, satisfaction, and efficiency) and experiencing technical issues (t = 4.47, t = 8.11, and t = 3.24, respectively, p < 0.05), with users who faced technical problems having significantly lower mean scores for all three items.
CONCLUSION: This study provided evidence that the Seha app improved the delivery of healthcare in Saudi Arabia. Users of the app had a better health experience in terms of their perceived ease of access to healthcare services; their satisfaction with healthcare services; and the efficiency of the system, measured by the number of required doctor visits. Other factors that appeared to influence the use of the app included age, gender, usual source of care, and technical difficulties.