Original Article | Volume 19: 10 | 19 Feb 2024

Perception of primary care doctors towards telemedicine in Kuching, Sarawak: A cross-sectional study


Introduction: Telemedicine is the provision of healthcare remotely via information and communications technology (ICT). This study aimed to assess the familiarity and factors related to the perception towards telemedicine and the willingness to practise telemedicine among primary care doctors.
Methods: A multi-centre cross-sectional study was conducted prospectively at all public healthcare clinics across Kuching, Sarawak. A questionnaire was adapted and modified from an overseas validated questionnaire, consisting of four parts: demographic data, familiarity towards telemedicine, factors related to the perception of telemedicine and willingness to implement telemedicine.
Results: A total of 131 doctors were recruited. Of them, 43.5% had never interacted with patients via email, WhatsApp or Telegram, while 68.7% had never attended any conferences, speeches or meetings regarding telemedicine. The doctors had low familiarity towards guidelines, technology and medical applications of telemedicine. The majority agreed on the ability of telemedicine to save patients’ time and money, the potential of ICT in healthcare and the necessity during a pandemic but perceived the possibility of technical difficulties. The doctors who had experience in interacting with patients via email, WhatsApp or Telegram (P=0.001) and those who had ≤8 years of working experience (P=0.04) had a significantly better perception towards telemedicine.
Conclusion: Although the familiarity towards telemedicine among public primary care doctors is low, their perception is good in a majority of areas. Adequate technological support and continuous education on telemedicine and its guidelines, especially medicolegal issues, are imperative to adopt and propagate telemedicine in primary care.