The use of information and communication technology to support physiotherapy students in South Africa
The use of information and communication technology to support physiotherapy students in South Africa Over the past few decades, there has been a global shift toward the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in healthcare, which has been shown to enhance the support provided to healthcare professionals, as well as to improve service delivery, patient care and student education. This study aims to investigate the use of ICT at South African universities to provide support to physiotherapy students and what the experiences and perceptions of those students are on the use of ICT as a means of receiving support. The study design was a cross-sectional, descriptive survey using a self-administered questionnaire. The survey population included all of the undergraduate physiotherapy students (n=1105) from six of the eight universities offering the physiotherapy degree in South Africa. The sample size consisted of the 529 students from the survey population who had completed and returned questionnaires, indicating a response rate of 47.8%. The results of the study showed that the use of ICT varied according to racial demographics, as well as the university attended and that there was a preference among students (94.7%) for face-to-face contact as the method by which support was accessed. Furthermore, confidence in the use of ICT for research and in promoting academic development was low (42.9% and 39.1% respectively), which raises concerns with the shift in healthcare toward evidence-based practices. In conclusion, there is a concern that with the move toward community based service delivery in South Africa, certain groups of physiotherapy students may not be well placed to make use of ICT services as a means of accessing support.