eHealth as a facilitator of equitable access to primary healthcare: the case of caring for non-communicable diseases in rural and refugee settings in Lebanon.
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Objectives: Assess the effect of selected low-cost eHealth tools on diabetes/hypertension detection and referrals rates in rural settings and refugee camps in Lebanon and explore the barriers to showing-up to scheduled appointments at Primary Healthcare Centers (PHC). Methods: Community-based screening for diabetes and hypertension was conducted in five rural and three refugee camp PHCs using an eHealth netbook application. Remote referrals were generated based on preset criteria. A phone survey was subsequently conducted to assess the rate and causes of no-shows to scheduled appointments. Associations between the independent variables and the outcome of referrals were then tested. Results: Among 3481 screened individuals, diabetes, hypertension, and comorbidity were detected in 184,356 and 113 per1000 individuals, respectively. 37.1% of referred individuals reported not showing-up to scheduled appointments, owing to feeling better/symptoms resolved (36.9%) and having another obligation (26.1%). The knowledge of referral reasons and the employment status were significantly associated with appointment show-ups. Conclusions: Low-cost eHealth netbook application was deemed effective in identifying new cases of NCDs and establishing appropriate referrals in underserved communities.