Utilization of mobile phones in rural health service delivery in Uganda: a case of Buwenge sub county - Jinja district
Bogere, Robert Patrick
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In the past three decades, mobile phones have gained momentum in health services delivery especially in both developed and developing countries. In Uganda, about 22% of the population has mobile phones which are used for business transactions, education services, taxation among others (UBOS, 2014). Despite the use of mobile phones in other sectors of the sub-county, the level of use of mobile phones for delivery of health services in remote areas like Buwenge subCounty is not yet understood which drove a motivation for this study. This study was therefore conducted to assess the level of utilization of mobile phones by Health workers in rural health service delivery in Buwenge Sub- County in Jinja district. The specific objectives of the study are, (i) to assess the health worker’s utilization of mobile phone in health service delivery in the rural areas (ii) to determine how mobile phones are being utilized by the community in the health service accessibility in rural areas and (iii) the challenges encountered by health workers in delivering of health services using mobile phones in rural areas. This study used a crosssectional design using both qualitative and quantitative approach and the sample size was 130 health workers that were selected by systematic random sampling from 13 health facilities in Buwenge Sub County. Data was collected by designed structured questionnaires and key informant interview guide. Quantitative data was entered to SPSS version 20.0 for analysis. Qualitative data was analysed by thematic content analysis. Results indicated that mobile phones were to high extent used in health services delivery particularly for communication, learning, and data collection purposes. However, use of mobile phones in health services delivery pose a number of challenges which include mainly structural challenges like disruption resulting ring and alarm tones; technical difficulties like poor telecommunication network and limited of electric power supply and socio-economic issues like inability to afford smart phones, and lack of skills to use the smart phones. It is now clear that there is a growing appreciation and rise in utilization of digital health services in Uganda and findings show that although the phones are being utilized to solve health challenges, their level of utilization in Uganda is still low more especially in the rural areas. The study recommends that, there is a need to streamline mobile phone utilization strategies in health service delivery mechanisms in rural areas because they can save time and people can access health services without travelling long distances, the government of Uganda needs to promote utilization of mobile phones. Community health workers and Village Health Teams (VHTs) can perform this role because they are situated in almost all rural areas, the government of Uganda should invest more in rural electricity supply and telecommunication companies should improve mobile network coverage.