The impact of COVID-19 on the prevalence and perception of telehealth use in the Middle East and North Africa region: survey study
Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become a safer way to access healthcare. The telehealth industry has rapidly expanded over the last decade as a modality to provide patient-centered care. However, the prevalence of its use and patient acceptability remains unclear in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Objective: The primary aim was to assess the prevalence of telehealth use before and during the pandemic by utilizing social media (Instagram) as an online platform for survey administration across different countries simultaneously. Our secondary aim was to assess the perceptions regarding telehealth usage amongst those utilizing it.
Methods: An online social media platform (Instagram) that reaches 130,000 subjects daily was used to administer a questionnaire that assessed the current prevalence of telehealth use and public attitudes and acceptability towards this modality of healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results: 1524 respondents participated in the survey (females 89.0%; median age 31 years), of whom 97.6% lived in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Prior to COVID-19, 1350 (88.6%) had no exposure to telehealth. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth usage increased by 251% to a total of 611 users (40% of all users). About 89% of telehealth users used virtual visits for specialist visits. Of the 642 participants who reported using telehealth, 236 (36.8%) reported their willingness to continue using telehealth, 241 (37.5%) were unsure, and 164 (25.5%) did not wish to continue to use telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic. An inverse trend, although not statistically significant, was seen between willingness to continue telehealth usage and the number of medical comorbidities (OR= 0.81, p= 0.094). Compared to the respondents who chose only messaging as their used modality for telehealth, respondents who chose both messaging and phone calls were significantly less likely to recommend telehealth (OR= 0.42, p= 0.009). Overall, there was general satisfaction with telehealth usage and respondents reported that telehealth consultations made them feel safer and saved both time and money.
Conclusions: Telehealth usage increased dramatically after the COVID-19 pandemic and usage was found to be acceptable among some young adult groups on Instagram. However, further innovation is warranted to increase acceptability and willingness to continue telehealth use for the delivery of healthcare.
CommentsThe original article is available at https://formative.jmir.org/
Published CitationShamiyah KA, Whitebridge S, Kumar N, Aljenaee K, Atkin SL, Ali KF. The impact of COVID-19 on the prevalence and perception of telehealth use in the Middle East and North Africa region: survey study. JMIR Form Res. 2023;7:e34074.
Publication Date2 February 2023
- RCSI Bahrain
- Published Version (Version of Record)