The journey to the capital city of Amman can be daunting for rural Jordanians who require specialty medical care—people like Haifa Abd-El Karim Omoush.
The 34-year-old married mother of five suffers from a treatable cardiac condition. Her local doctor at Al-Mafraq Governmental Hospital in rural northeast Jordan referred her to a cardiac specialist in Amman to confirm his diagnosis and define a treatment plan.
But Haifa missed or postponed critical appointments with the cardiologist because she had no one to care for her children and could not afford to travel to the hospital. Her condition deteriorated.
Haifa’s experience is common in many parts of the world where specialists are in short supply. But now, technology is helping to close this gap in healthcare access.
Telehealth connects rural patients with urban experts
Quality, state-of-the-art healthcare is often not available to remote, rural populations and underserved individuals and communities in Jordan. Yet specialists at urban hospitals have the skill to consult with and treat rural patients. They only lack the ability to reach them in a way that is affordable and accessible.
Connecting urban specialists to rural patients like Haifa without the burden of travel reflects His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision to transform Jordan’s healthcare delivery system.
To bridge the gap, Cisco and the Government of Jordan partnered to use “telehealth” technology to connect patients at two rural hospitals in northern and southern Jordan with specialists at Prince Hamzah Hospital in Amman, the capital.
Through the Cisco HealthPresence solution, patients and healthcare providers see and speak to one another as if they are face to face, even though they may be as far as 225 kilometers apart. Network-connected third-party medical devices—such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and handheld cameras—route patient information from the rural clinics, giving the specialists at Prince Hamzah Hospital access to critical data.
Cisco representatives and Jordanian government officials discussed the Jordan Healthcare Initiative during a press conference at the MENA ICT Forum this week.
Changing the way patients live
Dr. Khaled Zayed, a nephrology specialist who participates in the program at Prince Hamzah Hospital in Amman, says the technology enables him to see more patients and improve follow-up care, all at a lower cost.
“With telemedicine, follow-up intervals are reduced, and follow-up care is cheaper than face-to-face outreach or clinic activities,” he says. “I can see more patients and provide my specialty care to people far away from my clinic where it takes hours to travel. The patients are comfortable at their hospital and I can provide them with same level of care as if they were here, facing me, in my clinic.”
As of February 28, 2013, Cisco HealthPresence had enabled 823 remote consultations between patients at the two rural hospitals and specialists in cardiology, nephrology, and dermatology in Amman; 21 percent of the consultations were for children.
For Haifa, the care-at-a-distance clinic helped her bridge the divide between her personal circumstances and good health. After a remote consultation, a cardiologist at Prince Hamzah Hospital diagnosed her and changed her treatment plan. She reports that her condition has improved and she has more time and energy to spend caring for her family.
“I got to hear more about my heart condition from a cardiology specialist and I spent good time with him. That is why I understand my case so much better now,” she says. “It changed the way I live, really.”
Read more about the Jordan Healthcare Initiative at csr.cisco.com.