1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
ICT has been an integral part of human life and has lead to rapid processing of mass information. Recent developments globally show that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have permeated all fields of human endeavour, including technical health personnel. It is perhaps for this reason that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) refers to ICT as a “powerful enabler of development” because of its significant impact on the scientific, economic, academic, social, political, cultural and other aspects of life. ICTs have therefore become synonymous with “development” in modern day society (Minishi-Majanja, 2007). Agaji cited in Gujbawu (2004), also stated that the potential of Information and Communication Technology to transform development in both the underdeveloped and developed world is increasingly recognized by governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), corporations and global agencies. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are tools that facilitate the production, transmission and processing of information (Grace, Kemy and King, cited by Eyo, Nkanu and Nkebem, 2011). These tools include computer facilities (computers, scanners, printers, UPS and power point projectors); computer software resources (online databases, CD-ROMs, Internet and storage media); audio-visual media/equipment (satellite connection, digital cameras, video compact disk (VCD), digital video disk (DVD) radio, television, audio tapes, video tapes and photocopiers; and communication media (telephone-intercom and global system of mobile communication (GSM). Generally speaking, ICTs consists of hardware, software, networks and media for processing, transmission and presentation of information (Eyo, Nkanu and Nkebem, 2011). Qiang as cited by Onwubiko (2011) perceives ICT as the application of communication technologies consisting of ‘’hardware, software, networks and media for the collection, storage, processing, transmission and presentation of information, via voice, data, text or images’’. A more lucid definition is given by Onwubiko (2011) thus ‘’any technology that is used in producing, organizing and for distributing information. It is a broad-based concept that encompasses the gathering (acquisition), organization (packaging), storage and retrieval for disseminating information that can be in textual or numeric (books and documents), pictorial and vocal forms (audio-visual) using the combination of all the above (multimedia) including computers and telecommunication facilities’’ (p.62).
The health sector has always relied on technologies. According to WHO (2004), they form the backbone of the services to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness and disease. ICTs are only one category of the vast array of technologies that may be of used. Given the right policies, organization, resources, and institutions, ICTs can be powerful tools in the hands of those working to improve health (Daly, 2003).
Advances in information and computer technology in the last quarter of the 20th century have led to the ability to more accurately profile individual health risks (Watson, 2003), to better understand basic physiologic and pathologic processes (Laufman, 2002), and to revolutionize diagnosis through new imaging and scanning technologies. Such technological developments, however, demand that practitioners, managers, and policymakers are more responsible in assessing the appropriateness of new technologies (Hofmann, 2002).
The methods people use to communicate with each other have also changed significantly. Mobile telephony, electronic mail and video conferencing offer new options for sharing perspectives. Digital technologies are making visual images and the voices of people more accessible through radio, TV, video, portable disk players and the Internet, which change the opportunities for people to share opinions, experience, and knowledge. This has been coupled with steps to deregulate the telecommunications and broadcast systems in many countries, which open up spaces and platforms, such as community radio, for increased communication.
Reliable information and effective communication are crucial elements in public health practices. The use of appropriate technologies can increase the quality and the reach of both information and communication. Increased information helps people to improve their own health. At the same time, social organizations help people achieve health through health care systems and public health processes. The ability of impoverished communities to access services, engage with and demand a health sector that responds to their priorities and needs is influenced by wider information and communication processes mediated by ICTs.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Computers are inseparable from their preoccupation with exploding costs, and many systems in use today reflect the idea to establish management criteria in the heart of the health professionals. ICTs are crucial to solve data management; poor evidence based decision-making and clinical communication challenges. Health information technologies are considered as critical to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare industries. Customers’ need, competition, educational needs, communication and innovation of different healthcare software contributed more in the adoption of ICTs in healthcare systems worldwide. To have informed health professionals, who are the backbone of quality healthcare services, there must be appropriate health information sources. Different scholars agreed that ICTs are valuable media to access, retrieve and circulate recent and relevant information among health professionals. Nowadays, hospitals and health centers including St. Gerald’s Catholic Hospital have benefited from the limited adoption of ICTs. Medical record systems, telemedicine, video conferences, audio-video teaching materials, internet and e-learning are some of the applications of ICTs in healthcare businesses.
Even though ICTs are very important in healthcare systems, its adoption rate is very limited in resource-limited countries like Nigeria. Due to this fact and other contributing factors, healthcare facilities from developing countries and St. Gerald’s Catholic Hospital in particular have experiences of poor data management, weak evidence-based decision-making practices, cases of various medical errors and poor planning. Poor management problems, skill related issues, resource shortage, poor ICTs access were considered as factors for the presence of limited ICTs access and utilization in the health facilities in Nigeria – St. Gerald in particular. The consequences of limited utilization are that the hospital will not get the full benefit that a comprehensive utilization will provide.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The general aim of the study is to examine the Access and Utilization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Among Technical Health Personnel in St. Gerald’s Catholic Hospital. The specific purposes of this research are to:
1. Find out the challenges in the utilization of information and communication technology in accessing health information.
2. Determine the perception of technical health personnel on the benefits of utilizing ICTs.
3. Determine the extent to which ICTs are utilized for various hospital operations in St Gerald hospital.
4. Identify possible barriers to effective use of ICT in hospitals and to proffer strategies for enhancing ICT utilization among health professional.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What are the challenges in the utilization of information and communication technology in accessing health information?
2. What are the perceptions of technical health personnel on the benefits of utilizing ICTs?
3. What is the extent of ICTs utilization for various hospital operations in St Gerald hospital?
5. What are the barriers to effective utilization of ICT in hospitals?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is important because information and communication technology is having a great impact in the health sector today. Therefore the findings of this work will assist in improving more awareness among the health care professionals on the knowledge and utilization of ICT.
It will also help the health care professionals in storing and retrieving data, performing statistical analysis and individualizing the medical education to the creation of more complex medical research on the interest distant learning and practicing.
Also as the world becomes more globalized having access to information and communication technologies becomes important for health care professional to function effectively by consistently supporting them for technical competence, effectiveness, efficiency and safety of client and all health care workers. It equally helps to drastically reduce mortality and morbidity rates due to quick intervention with the appropriate strategies.
It leads in the discovering of new approaches which will help in preventing, diagnosing, managers and curing illness.
In specific terms the findings will be useful to health professionals in the sense that they can apply the recommendations in improving the performance of their operations and services to health workers. It will also enable them be up-to-date with current medical practices in Nigeria, thus fully equipping them to render efficient services to their clients.
1.6 SCOPE AND DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This research work focuses on access and utilization of information and communication technology among technical health personnel in St. Gerald’s Catholic Hospital, Kakuri, Kaduna South, Kaduna. For the purpose of this study, ICTs covered are limited to computer facilities such as computers, printers, Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), document scanners projectors, computer software resources – storage media, online databases, and Internet connection; audio-visual media/equipment – satellite connection, digital cameras, and communication media – telephone (intercom), and Global System of Mobile communication (GSM).