The journey to the capital city of Amman is a daunting one for rural Jordanians who require specialty medical care. Haifa Abd-El Karim Omoush, a 34-year-old married woman with five children, suffers from a treatable cardiac condition. Her local physician at Al-Mafraq Governmental Hospital (MGH) referred her to a specialist in Amman to confirm his diagnosis and define a treatment plan. But she continued to suffer and her condition deteriorated because she missed or postponed critical appointments because she had no one to care for her children and could not afford to travel to the hospital.
Every day, patients like Haifa leave family and familiar surroundings behind to travel hundreds of kilometers to Prince Hamzah Hospital (PHH) in Amman. They wait in long lines to register. Due to workload, specialists have just minutes to consult with each patient and formulate a treatment. When patients return home, local providers do their best to help them adhere to the specialists’ recommendations. Missed and cancelled appointments as well as brief consultations undermine the quality of care at every point of connection.
Connecting specialists and rural patients without the burden of travel is a priority for the Government’s Healthcare Initiative, part of the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah II to transform Jordan's healthcare delivery system.
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of ICT collaborated with Cisco to establish the first care-at-a-distance clinic in the Middle East and Africa region by connecting specialists in cardiology, nephrology, and dermatology at urban PHH with patients and physicians at rural MGH.
The locations are connected via Cisco HealthPresence technology, which combines communication, collaboration, and video technologies to connect patients and caregivers from a distance. Participants see and speak to one another from distant clinical settings as if they are face to face. The clinic is staffed by a licensed healthcare professional who assists the specialist with the patient examination. Network-connected medical devices--thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, multipurpose scopes, stethoscopes, and handheld cameras--route patient information from the clinic to the hospital for instant access to critical data.
Given the option of travel to Amman or a scheduled specialist consultation at the care-at-a-distance clinic, patients increasingly choose the local approach to their care. When Haifa learned about the care-at-a-distance clinic, her local physician arranged a remote consultation with the PHH cardiologist, who immediately diagnosed her and adjusted her treatment plan.
Connecting urban physicians with rural patients and their physicians via technology extends the reach of providers, increases access to healthcare, reduces costs, and empowers patients across Jordan.
In the first 18 months of implementation, the Mafraq care-at-a-distance clinic enabled 444 consultations in dermatology, nephrology, and cardiology.
The program expanded to include Queen Rania Governmental Hospital in southern Jordan, going live in September 2012 and enabling 196 remote consultations through December 2012. With the first implementation of Cisco HealthPresence technology in the Middle East and Africa, the Jordan Healthcare Initiative is leading the way in the transformation of healthcare delivery.
"Cisco's HealthPresence solution has already increased the level of collaboration between specialists from the Prince Hamzah Hospital and the Al-Mafraq Governmental Hospital," said Dr. Ali Hyasat, director general, Prince Hamzah Hospital, Jordan. "The solution is also receiving impressive feedback from patients.”
For Haifa, the care-at-a-distance clinic helped her bridge the divide between her personal circumstances and good health. She shared 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 cardiac case from a cardiology specialist and I spent good time with him,” she said. “That is why I understand my case much better now. It changed the way I live really.”
Read more about how human and technology networks are multiplying impact on healthcare.
Watch a video about the Jordan Healthcare Initiative.
A renowned children's hospital is using Cisco TelePresence to help families reduce the cost and stress of seeking specialized pediatric care. Read more.
Cisco and the Chinese government used network technology to improve access to healthcare in previously hard-to-reach communities. Read more.