The application of information and communication technologies in the management of health information by doctors and nurses in selected government hospitals in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Doctors and nurses in most developing countries lack access to adequate health information, that is, the lifeblood for the delivery of quality health care services. This problem is further compounded by the fact that correct techniques and equipment are not applied to provide access to reliable health information. Based on previous literature, it is assumed that information should be managed in the same way capital, labour and human resources are managed so that healthcare providers and medical professionals should be able to have relevant information to assist then in their daily activities, to help them to learn, to diagnose and to save lives. Relevance and reliability are paramount in meeting health information needs. A number of studies have shown that the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the management of health information is a prerequisite to wider accessibility and availability of relevant health information. Health information management is the continuum of processes in managing health-related information. It is composed of the use of technologies (computers, hardware, software and telecommunication), personnel (trained information specialists), and the allocation of financial resources to achieve the major goals of the organisation such as a hospital. The aim is to collect, process, store, retrieve and disseminate adequate health information to the right person, in the right form, at the right time. This study investigated the application of ICTs in the management of health information by medical professionals in six selected government hospitals in Yaounde, Cameroon. The basis of the study was that through the effective application of ICTs in the management of health information, relevant and timely information would be made available to medical professionals. It was the researcher's view that unless we understand the importance of information in the development of the health system, and apply the use of ICTs in its management, the delivery of health care services will constantly remain poor. Data was collected from six government hospitals in Yaounde through a self-administered questionnaire given to nurses and medical doctors. The data collected from 141 medical professionals [doctors and nurses] were presented, using descriptive statistics in the form of frequency distribution and percentage. The findings of the study revealed that medical professionals are dissatisfied with the major method of information exchange activities, that is, face-to-face interaction with colleagues. In addition, the study found that health information is captured, processed and stored manually. This is very detrimental to medical professionals, because relevant information is not always available when needed. The study found that the barriers to adequate information exchange activities were lack of information support services, irregular distribution of information and poor co-operation and collaboration among medical professionals. The study also revealed the non-availability of ICTs and Internet resources and lack of basic computer skills. Consequently, there is low utilisation of ICTs by medical professionals and limited information needs are being satisfied. Medical professionals unanimously favoured the application of Internet services or an electronic health information resource to supplement the current method of managing and accessing health information. Lack of training on the use of computers and Internet resources were the main factors that hinder the use of ICTs by medical professionals. The study concluded by calling on directors of hospitals, medical professionals and the Ministry of Health Officials to provide ICTs and Internet resources to medical professionals and provide them with basic computing skills and training. It further called for the recognition of information as an important resource for national development and called for formulation of a national information policy. With an information policy, information needs would be clearly defined and the provision of information services throughout the country would be regulated. In addition, medical professionals must create a free-flow of information and constant communication outlet to exchange and disseminate local health information. The high demand for basic training on the use of ICTs could be provided through in-service training or refresher courses.
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