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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Analysis of the Use of Digital Health Technologies in Primary Health Care in the Sub-Saharan African Region: Qualitative Study

O'Brien, Niki, Li, Edmond, Chaibva, Cynthia N, Gomez Bravo, Raquel, Kovacevic, Lana, Kwame Ayisi-Boateng, Nana, Lounsbury, Olivia, Nwabufo, Ngnedjou Francoise F, Senkyire, Ephraim, Serafini, Alice, Surafel Abay, Eleleta, van de Vijver, Steven, Wanjala, Mercy, Wangari, Marie-Claire, Moosa, Shabir and Neves, Ana Luisa (2023) 'Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Analysis of the Use of Digital Health Technologies in Primary Health Care in the Sub-Saharan African Region: Qualitative Study'. Journal of Medical Internet Research, Vol 25, e45224.

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Digital health technologies (DHTs) have become increasingly commonplace as a means of delivering primary care. While DHTs have been postulated to reduce inequalities, increase access, and strengthen health systems, how the implementation of DHTs has been realized in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) health care environment remains inadequately explored. This study aims to capture the multidisciplinary experiences of primary care professionals using DHTs to explore the strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats, regarding the implementation and use of DHTs in SSA primary care settings. A combination of qualitative approaches was adopted (ie, focus groups and semistructured interviews). Participants were recruited through the African Forum for Primary Care and researchers' contact networks using convenience sampling and included if having experience with digital technologies in primary health care in SSA. Focus and interviews were conducted, respectively, in November 2021 and January-March 2022. Topic guides were used to cover relevant topics in the interviews, using the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats framework. Transcripts were compiled verbatim and systematically reviewed by 2 independent reviewers using framework analysis to identify emerging themes. The COREQ (Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research) checklist was used to ensure the study met the recommended standards of qualitative data reporting. A total of 33 participants participated in the study (n=13 and n=23 in the interviews and in focus groups, respectively; n=3 participants participated in both). The strengths of using DHTs ranged from improving access to care, supporting the continuity of care, and increasing care satisfaction and trust to greater collaboration, enabling safer decision-making, and hastening progress toward universal health coverage. Weaknesses included poor digital literacy, health inequalities, lack of human resources, inadequate training, lack of basic infrastructure and equipment, and poor coordination when implementing DHTs. DHTs were perceived as an opportunity to improve patient digital literacy, increase equity, promote more patient-centric design in upcoming DHTs, streamline expenditure, and provide a means to learn international best practices. Threats identified include the lack of buy-in from both patients and providers, insufficient human resources and local capacity, inadequate governmental support, overly restrictive regulations, and a lack of focus on cybersecurity and data protection. The research highlights the complex challenges of implementing DHTs in the SSA context as a fast-moving health delivery modality, as well as the need for multistakeholder involvement. Future research should explore the nuances of these findings across different technologies and settings in the SSA region and implications on health and health care equity, capitalizing on mixed-methods research, including the use of real-world quantitative data to understand patient health needs. The promise of digital health will only be realized when informed by studies that incorporate patient perspective at every stage of the research cycle. [Abstract copyright: ©Niki O'Brien, Edmond Li, Cynthia N Chaibva, Raquel Gomez Bravo, Lana Kovacevic, Nana Kwame Ayisi-Boateng, Olivia Lounsbury, Ngnedjou Francoise F Nwabufo, Ephraim Kumi Senkyire, Alice Serafini, Eleleta Surafel Abay, Steven van de Vijver, Mercy Wanjala, Marie-Claire Wangari, Shabir Moosa, Ana Luisa Neves. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 07.09.2023.]

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 82 Biomedical technology (General)
WA Public Health > WA 20.5 Research (General)
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: JISC Pubrouter
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2023 14:17
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2023 14:17


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