A survey on the educational value of an mHealth referral app for orthopaedics in South Africa
Keywords:mHealth, WhatsApp, orthopaedics, South Africa
Background: A WhatsApp orthopaedic referral group (ORG) was created in 2017 by orthopaedic specialists at a district hospital to provide support to primary healthcare doctors in order to manage traumatic fractures and dislocations. This study assessed the educational value and user satisfaction of the ORG platform.
Methods: An online, cross-sectional survey was conducted among ORG users from May to June 2021. Demographic information, user satisfaction, the educational value of ORG, and perceived improvement in managing closed fractures and dislocations were captured using descriptive and inferential statistics.
Results: There were 80 respondents, with 50% females. The median age was 30 (interquartile range [IQR] 28–35) years, duration of practice was 5 (IQR 3–10) years, and length of ORG use was 10 (IQR 5–24) months. Seventy-two (90%) reported that ORG enabled them to receive timely advice for orthopaedic case management and 75 (93.8%) considered it an easy referral facilitation tool. Most (76.3%) felt that the advice, pictures, and videos shared on ORG helped novice doctors successfully complete fracture reduction. The percentage of participants who felt very capable in managing the following fractures increased after ORG membership: extra-articular distal radius fracture (12.5% to 45.0%, p < 0.001); bimalleolar ankle fractures (16.3% to 43.8%, p < 0.001 and shoulder dislocation (35.0% to 61.3%, p = 0.001).
Conclusion: ORG is an easy-to-use and well-accepted platform for the management, referral facilitation and teaching of acute orthopaedic conditions. Similar platforms can be introduced in other settings where surgical specialists are scarce. Additional studies should measure the feasibility and effectiveness of these mHealth platforms.
Level of evidence: Level 3