The objective of this study was to investigate the knowledge and attitudes of Saudi Arabian citizens towards telemedicine during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
A cross-sectional survey was designed to carry out this study. The electronic survey, prepared using Google Forms, was distributed to 1500 randomly selected citizens of Saudi Arabia. A total of 330 participants completed and returned the questionnaire. Basic statistics were used to describe the data.
The majority of the respondents (73.9%) were female. More than half of them (54.8%) were >35 y of age and had graduate or postgraduate degrees (65.5%). A total of 96.7% of the respondents were Saudis. Most of the participants (70.0%) were familiar with the term ‘telemedicine’ and thought that telemedicine (92.1%) could reduce transportation costs. Of the respondents, 58.8% had not seen a telemedicine system before and 67.0% indicated that they had not previously used telemedicine services. A total of 87.3% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that telemedicine was a useful tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, more than half of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that telemedicine facilitates the diagnosis of people (58.8%), increases communication (58.2%), reduces clinic visits (85.9%) and performs tasks quickly (70.3%). Also, 51.5% of the respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that telemedicine affects patient privacy.
The outcomes indicated that most of the participants had a positive attitude towards the use of telemedicine as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Saudi Arabia. They believed that telemedicine saves time, labour and costs and is an effective tool to treat coronavirus patients at a safe distance. However, the government should develop programs to raise awareness in the population about the use of telemedicine for the treatment of various diseases that afflict the Saudi Arabian people. Likewise, a legal framework must be implemented to protect the privacy of patients and healthcare providers.