Objective: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of short message system (SMS) and internet usage in patients visiting the SingHealth Polyclinics and to measure patients’ acceptance of using these technologies in healthcare delivery. Materials and Methods: A representative sample of patients visiting the 9 SingHealth Polyclinics were interviewed in-person by trained medical students. Collected information included demographic characteristics, access to and usage of mobile phone/SMS and internet, as well as acceptance and concerns on using these technologies in primary healthcare delivery. Results: Among 705 patients surveyed (mean age: 54.6 years, female: 50.6%, response rate: 92%), 407 (57.7%) were SMS users and 158 (22.4%) were internet users. Two hundred and eighty-four of 412 SMS and/or internet users (40.3% of the entire sample) were comfortable with the use of these technologies in healthcare delivery. Malay or Indian ethnicity, better education, and visiting the clinic for acute symptoms or screening were factors positively associated with willingness to use such technologies. The main concerns associated with the use of SMS and internet in healthcare delivery were preference for in-person consultation with a doctor (23.5%), reduced patient-doctor interaction (23.0%), and increased healthcare cost (20.8%). Conclusion: The present prevalence of SMS and internet usage among patients visiting the SingHealth Polyclinics and their concerns towards use of these technologies in healthcare delivery do not support current widespread implementation of services entailing SMS and internet in the study sites
Information and communication technologies, such as internet portal and short message system (SMS), are increasingly used in healthcare delivery worldwide.1,2 Typically, these technologies are used to facilitate or enhance communication and exchange of information between patients and doctors or other health professionals. Both healthcare consumers and providers can benefit from these new technologies. For patients and their caregivers, these technologies have the potential to save time and money, increase convenience and choices, obtain timely information, and reduce stigma associated with certain diseases.3 For health providers, a great attraction of these new technologies is reduction in health services costs. By delivering health services through internet or SMS, costs for conducting population-based health programmes can be lowered, unnecessary encounters between patients and their doctors can be reduced, and management of patients in isolated or remote areas would be less expensive.1 Moreover, appropriate use of these technologies can also improve the quality and efficiency of health services. For example, there were studies showing that SMS reminders increased outpatient attendance4,5 and patient satisfaction.4
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