Back in January, when most of the world was still traveling regularly, we were privileged to attend a telehealth conference in Dubai. The conference was initiated by MWAN Events, a fantastic company with over 15 years of international experience that creates a variety of memorable and innovative conferences and webinars for the Middle East and Africa. At the Dubai conference, MWAN and KLAS struck up a conversation. We decided to keep in touch.middle east & north africa (mena)

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head. Healthcare providers around the world found themselves dealing with a unique set of circumstances. Patients with COVID-19 needed to be cared for, but leaving their houses meant exposing others to the virus. Other patients needed the same medical care as always, but many of them were afraid to visit the doctor’s office due to the risk of exposure. Telehealth seemed like the perfect solution.

The problem was that many healthcare providers didn’t have a telehealth platform. Government restrictions around the world prevented payers from reimbursing providers for telehealth visits, and the majority of organizations could not afford to provide telehealth services on their own. 

When the pandemic struck, many governments recognized the unique needs of their citizens and the healthcare system and lifted their restrictions. Providers were suddenly assured of payment, and healthcare organizations leaped to find some kind of technology that would help them meet with patients remotely. Solutions like Zoom, FaceTime, and were popular temporary choices as they were free or cheap and quick to implement.

The Current Dilemma

As the pandemic has progressed, providers have discovered the pitfalls of these products chosen in haste. Organizations are looking for products that are healthcare specific. They are also discovering that telehealth can be used not only for provider-to-patient communication but also for provider-to-provider communication across various locations, and these organizations want products that will better facilitate those capabilities.

Moreover, most healthcare organizations believe that after the virus is finally tamed, governments will not be able to go back to enforcing the same telehealth restrictions. Both patients and providers have already tasted telehealth’s advantages. The demand will be too great. 

How We Can Help

Some provider organizations are already on the hunt for a long-term telehealth solution—a product that will serve the needs of the organization and their patients better than the quick-fix technology of 2020. To serve that end, KLAS has determined to publish a series of regional telehealth guidebooks. These reports will offer summaries of telehealth vendors that are available in each region. 

To publish our first international telehealth guidebook, KLAS reached out to MWAN Events, who facilitated contact with vendors who had presented at the conference. These vendors provided us with overviews of their backgrounds, products, and COVID-19 responses. We compiled these summaries to create The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Regional Telehealth Guidebook

Meanwhile, MWAN Events has been doing their part to help with COVID-19. They offer a series of webinars about telehealth, drug safety, and other hot topics to help healthcare professionals in the Middle East and North African region understand the basics, deal with real-world practicalities, and quickly develop skills to support healthcare through the pandemic.

What You Can Do

Some of the vendors listed in the MENA report have already expanded to the point that their products are available in multiple areas both inside and outside the region. If you are a healthcare organization that is seeking vendors with a wide reach, you should look at the vendor overviews for Kaizen Medical Technology, VSee, Neev Tech Labs, Okadoc, Ohum Healthcare Solutions, and Philips. Depending on the needs of your organization, there may also be advantages to choosing a vendor that is specific to your country.

It is important to note that the overviews in the guidebook are vendor provided. KLAS hasn’t validated any of these summaries. KLAS plans to investigate many of these vendors in the future, but that will take time. The goal of these guidebooks is not to validate performance but to quickly increase provider awareness of telehealth options. Our hope is that healthcare organizations will use these guidebooks as a base for their own investigations. 

If you are curious about a vendor that is not listed in our guidebooks, please reach out to us. These guidebooks are not comprehensive, but our goal is to collate and figure out who is relevant. We will use your information to spur further research and reports which may in turn benefit your organization.