One of Africa’s most technologically ambitious countries is embracing the advantages provided by modern telehealth techniques and rolling them out to its rural communities, discovers Colin Mackay.
Medicine and care no longer relies on face to face meeting with a doctor. Modern telehealth is bringing cutting edge clinical techniques to all parts of society – even those in the most remote of settings.
In so doing, it is redressing the balance that has long existed in access to care; where rural communities had previously lagged urban areas.
Now, Morocco’s newest telehealth initiatives is taking advantage so the latest technology to bring better access to care. The gradual roll out of his technology will mean that patients can connect and consult remotely with clinicians, improving care and outcomes.
Doctor Saad Chaacho explained to me that “Given the latest diagnostic work and our international experience, telemedicine appears to offer the ideal response to the specific health challenges of Morocco, with its unique geographical issues.
It will allow increased access to basic healthcare for rural populations that normally suffer as a result of their isolation and lack of qualified medical staff.”
In order to maximise the success of this initiative, Morocco pursued a three-stage deployment process. The first of these, initiated in 2018, was to demonstrate a ‘proof-of-concept’ (POC) in six rural communities.
In the second phase, which is currently ongoing until 2021, this concept is being extended to cover some 40 local sites. Four of these have been operational since March 2020, with a further eight currently being deployed (See Figures below). In the final step, between 2021-25, deployment plan will be expanded to a national scale.
It will cover more than 120 rural communities covering some 80 percent of the most at-risk populations – approximately 1.3 million people – with teleconsultation medical facilities.
He explained, “These people will be provided with a range of healthcare services, covering their general medical care, maternal, neonatal and childhood conditions, cardiovascular disorders and diabetes and potentially dermatological and eye-care services. These serviced will range from prevention through to detection, treatment and follow-up.”
During the launch phase, teleconsultations will be provided from the impressive central hub located in the Mohamed VI University of Health Sciences (UM6SS) in Casablanca, staffed by medical professionals employed by the university hospital (Hôpital Universitaire International Cheikh Khalifa – HCK).
During the later stages, in order to overcome any access restrictions and improve medical productivity, he explained that the teleconsultations will be granted for both private practitioners, direct from their surgeries as well as for those doctors attached to public structures from their workplace.
In order to ensure the best possible services delivery, a fully integrated telemedicine platform was acquired. This is based on certified medical devices and a global software solution. It allows doctors to conduct the examination and diagnosis of the patient remotely via videoconference by guiding a qualified medical staff member on site.
The platform provides a range of features and functions, including managing electronic health records, issuing prescriptions and scheduling appointments while always complying with requirements of data privacy and security.
The communication between the central hub and the remote site takes place via telecom connections that will be designed and sized according to demand.
“These arrangements will be set up in the designated rural areas, while relying mostly on the existing material and human resources.
In practical terms, the patients will be received in the local health centres equipped with the medical equipment to conduct teleconsultations, with the assistance of qualified and well-trained medical staff on site,” said Dr Chaacho.
The development of telemedicine has made it possible for many countries all over the world to reduce the medical isolation suffered by the rural populations.
In Morocco, telemedicine also has the potential to deal with health emergencies and bridge immediate gaps in care that exist with current mechanisms and arrangements.
It’s an impressive and well-planned development; something that can act as a showcase for the country.