Geographically and politically Chile is divided into 13 regions in which the NHS has established 29 regional health services. Each of these health services operates as a decentralised organisation under the close supervision of the Ministry of Health which secures the accomplishment of healthcare policies, plans, programmes and regulations.
Over the past 25 years, Chile has experienced a steady improvement in several healthcare indicators. For example, the infant mortality rate has decreased from 30 per 1,000 new born in the 1980s to 10 in 1998. Likewise, the life expectancy has increased from 70.7 to 75.4 years over the same period. The general mortality rate has decreased from 6.1 in 1985 to 5.4 in 1998. In spite of these successful figures, there still remain inequalities when these parameters are analysed under the perspective of socio economic levels, gender and geographic location.
It is in this last point where the advances in technology and management of communication systems should play a major role in the enhancement and improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Health Service, particularly in those regional units which are geographically isolated from the central government.
In order to achieve that goal, the use of the Internet as an educational tool for healthcare professionals can ease and add equity to the process of continuous education, reduces the organisational costs related to training courses, and increases the employees morale. The overall effect should bring tangible improvements not only in the quality of healthcare but also in the implementation of better management practices.
The scope of this research will look at the feasibility in the development of e-learning programmes for recently graduated general practitioners (GPs) who are part of a national programme for professional development organised by the Ministry of Health called destination cycle. This programme comprises a variable period of 3 to 9 years of rural health service.
Rural GPs in their destination cycle are commonly allocated in isolated geographical areas and are in charge of the day-to-day running of low complexity hospitals which provide basic healthcare.