Introduction: Practice guidelines can be used to support healthcare decision making. We sought to identify the use, and barriers to the implementation, of electronic based guidelines to support decision-making in maternal and child healthcare (MCH) and the rational use of medicines, in developing countries.
Methods: Graduates who had gained the Master of Public Health degree through the Peoples-uni (postgraduate public health education in developing countries) were sent an online survey questionnaire which had been piloted. Two reminders were sent to non-respondents at intervals of 10 days. Results were explored using descriptive analyses.
Results: 44 of the potential 48 graduates from 16 countries responded – most were from Africa. 82% and 89% of respondents were aware of guidelines on MCH and the rational use of medicines respectively. Electronic guidelines were more available in university hospitals than in provincial hospitals or rural care. All respondents thought that guidelines could improve the delivery of quality care, and 42 (95%) and 41 (93%) respectively thought that computers and mobile or smartphones could increase the use of guidelines in service delivery. Lack of access to computers, need to buy phone credit, need for training in the use of either computerized or phone based guidelines and fear of increased workload were potential barriers to use.
Conclusion: There is support for the use of electronic guidelines despite limited availability and barriers to use in developing countries. These findings, and other literature, provide a guide as to how the further development of ICT based guidelines may be implemented to improve health care decision making.