A patient benefit and perception survey of the Durban University of Technology homoeopathic satellite clinic established at Ukuba Nesibindi
Introduction In collaboration with LifeLine, Durban University of Technology (DUT) established its first satellite homoeopathic clinic; Ukuba Nesibindi Homoeopathic Clinic (UNHC). UNHC serves as a teaching clinic which is part of a Bachelors and Masters of Technology: Homoeopathy programme. It provides a free homoeopathic primary healthcare service at the LifeLine building in Warwick junction, Durban, an area which is classified as being disadvantaged. The area in which UNHC is situated consists primarily of small, informal businesses and low cost housing and experiences high crime rates, prostitution and violence. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the patients’ perception of the services provided by UNHC and to determine how patients are responding to treatment at UNHC so as to try formally quantify the percieved effectiveness of homoeopathy as a form of treatment in the primary healthcare sector. Methodology This study was a quantitative, descriptive survey to determine the patients’ perception of the services provided at UNHC and to determine their response to the homoeopathic treatment received. Non-probability, convenience sampling was applied over a 12 month period (August 2012 – August 2013) in which 44 consenting research participants were recruited. To be included in the study the participants had to be follow-up patients (with an existing file at the UNHC), over 18 years of age and at least conversant in isiZulu or English. Results A data collection tool in the form of a questionnaire was designed to obtain data around a variety of variables pertaining to the patients’ satisfaction of the service provided and response to treatment. The administration and general satisfaction was received with very positive results. Ninety-eight percent of the sample group agreed that the staff at the clinic are polite, quick to help patients and informed the patients of the waiting time for an appointment. Eighty-six percent agreed that the waiting time for an appointment was good enough; however thirty-six percent were dissatisfied with the waiting time for the medication. Sixty-one percent of the participants were satisfied with the clinic offering afternoon only appointments but 32 percent disagreed on the suitability of available times. The category “Professionalism” dealt with the perceptions of the front entrance, waiting room, toilets and treatment rooms as well as the comfort and privacy of the doctor’s rooms. Overall there was a positive perception of these. Twenty-five percent of the sample disagreed that there was enough privacy in the consultation rooms which is a large number. The overall impression of the attending homoeopathic student included perceptions of their appearance, skill, friendliness, manners, organisation, care and confidence. Ninety- seven percent of the research participants had a positive perception of these. All participants perceived the attention given to their case as being either ‘Good’ or ‘Very good’. The main diagnostic group of conditions that presented as primary and secondary complaints were Genitourinary based (34%) followed by gastrointestinal (14%), respiratory (14%) and headaches (11%). The results from the data collected suggest that overall the majority of participants experienced improvement (eighty-two percent of the main complaints and ninety-three percent of the secondary complaints respectively) after receiving treatment from UNHC. In addition, those who experienced improvement attributed such improvement to the homoeopathic treatment they received (100% of those with improved primary complaints and 92% of those with improved secondary complaints). Patients also rated their perceived changes to general state of health, sleep, general well-being, energy, mood, appetite and weight as the holistic nature of homoeopathy aims to achieve improvements in not just the main complaint but in the patients other general health variables as well. The results proved to be positive in this regard as the majority of the participants stated that their general health variables had improved, with 93% agreeing that their overall ‘general well-being’ was either ‘significantly better’ or ‘better’ since receiving treatment. Conclusion This survey was able to provide valuable insight into the participants’ perceptions on the clinic and the use of homoeopathy as a form of treatment in the healthcare sector. It is clear from the results that the patients recruited responded well to the treatment received and furthermore it was encouraging to note that they attributed these improvements to their main complaints, secondary complaints and overall health variables to the homoeopathic treatment they received at UNHC. Patients showed a good level of satisfaction with the clinics location and amenities. What needs to be addressed is the professional appearance of the clinics entrance and waiting room so as to create a good first impression and attract new patients. Privacy during consultations were deemed insufficient by twenty-five of the sample and this could be improved by better training of the student interns and by separating the filing cabinets, clinicians room and dispensary from the consultation rooms. The absence of an elevator at UNHC is concerning as this inhibits access to this facility by disabled patients; efforts to obtain a consultation room on the ground floor is a priority. The waiting time for medication can be improved and reduced by having a second clinician with which the student interns can discuss their cases and treatment methods. Since the implementation of this survey, the operation times of UNHC have changed for 2014. The clinic now operates on a Monday from 08h00-16h00 and a Thursday from 13h00-16h00 which allows for a morning time period in which patients can be seen improving access accordingly. The study showed some very positive results in all aspects. Although limited in terms of sample size, the outcomes of this study are encouraging and support the inclusion of homoeopathy within the public healthcare system of South Africa.