|Title||Evolving usage and access to ICTs in the Nigerian health care sector: challenges and prospects|
Good health care delivery is one of the most essential social services and is the lifeline of a country’s infrastructural development. Since most of Nigeria’s disease burden is due to preventable diseases, the emerging ICTs have a significant role to play in a country’s health care delivery industry. This research offers a distinctive perspective on the applications of ICTs in seven university teaching hospitals in Nigeria, with a focus on the University College Hospital, Ibadan. A research model that was proposed with its associations was tested using both qualitative and quantitative data collected from health workers (including those in training) and the clients/patients they serve.
For the first time, the perspectives of the beneficiaries of ICTs’ usage in the health sector, apart from the health workers (i.e., the patients/clients), were considered. Hitherto, the few research studies and findings that are available in this area in Nigeria and other developing countries was focused only on the users of the ICTs, i.e., the health workers. The data presented here found evidence that health professionals were highly aware of the on-going trends in the adoption of ICTs and their applications for use in communication in the health sector, but the potential benefits of ICTs in the health sector have not been fully exploited by the Nigerian teaching hospitals that were studied. The study also found that there are many barriers to the implementation of e-health solutions in Nigeria, and that these barriers cause delays or hinder their use. The Nigerian health sector is compromised with a lack of infrastructure, services and expertise, limited resources, low literacy levels and professional associations. In addition to these inherent problems, shortcomings in the knowledge and skills of patients and health professionals in using ICT solutions present other challenges. Some of these obstacles pertain to ICT itself and, with time, they will be alleviated, while others relate to the challenges that ICT poses for health care organizations. This calls on different stakeholders to fully implement and mainstream ICT applications in the health sector so as to make them a reality, and not a myth, in promoting the access to, and the quality of, health services. ICTs and their applications offer the foundation for information sharing and exchange. In Nigeria, the journey is likely to be a lengthy one, with numerous obstacles, many of which are unique to health care settings that must be surmounted.
However, policy makers should realize that ICTs are not only necessary in the health sector for a well-adjusted society, but the lack thereof may render such a society obsolete.
The study also notes that the adoption of ICTs in an organization and/or in a society can be driven by many factors. Since the diffusion of innovation requires an understanding of people, hardware, software, communication networks and data resources that collect, transform and disseminate information, it has been suggested that theories from information systems are well suited to explain such aspects of the diffusion and adoption phenomena. This work has therefore proposed a hybrid of Rogers’ (1995) Diffusion of Innovation Model and Venkatash et al.’s (2003) Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). Both theories provide important insights into the factors influencing technology transfer in developing countries, and this has been demonstrated by the findings of this research study.