S Afr Fam Pract (2004). 2022 Apr 25;64(1):e1-e9. doi: 10.4102/safp.v64i1.5491.
BACKGROUND: Referral systems play a pivotal role in coordination and quality of care and should be evaluated for their utility. The Vula App is used by various disciplines and hospitals in South Africa to refer patients. The aim was to explore the perceptions of medical practitioners regarding the use of the Vula App in the West Coast District.
METHODS: A descriptive, exploratory qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with 11 medical practitioners. The highest and lowest users of the Vula App were selected from seven district hospitals. Qualitative data analysis used the framework method and Atlas-ti.
RESULTS: There were five themes: impact on the referral process, quality of care, coordination of care, continuous professional development, and how to improve the Vula App. Its use was well established in the outpatient and semi-urgent setting, but participants were hesitant to rely on it for immediate advice. Specialist advice via the Vula App enabled practitioners to manage patients remotely. The referral hand-over function had a positive impact on the coordination of care. Advice and feedback via the Vula App assisted with continuous professional development.
CONCLUSION: The Vula App is a useful tool to refer patients to the emergency centre and outpatient departments. It can improve the immediate quality of care and sequential coordination of care. It has the potential to enable continuous professional development. There is a need to standardise its use, to ensure electronic information flows back to the district and to integrate the data into the district’s health information system.