France to set up online medical consultations in train stations

The Local France
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France to set up online medical consultations in train stations
The Bordeaux St-Jean train station in Bordeaux, southern France (AFP / MEHDI FEDOUACH)

France's national rail service SNCF has announced that it will set up 300 'télémedicine centres' - offices to have online medical consultations - in train stations in areas that have a shortage of doctors.


SNCF will add a room where patients can have an online medical appointment to 300 of its train stations by 2028, according to reporting by French media SudOuest

The areas chosen will be located in 'medical deserts' - areas where there is a shortage of healthcare providers and general practitioners - which affects around a third of the country, primarily in rural areas.

The locations would be set up by Loxamed, a 'medical solutions' company that helped add mobile Covid-19 testing sites to train stations during the pandemic.  The spaces will initially be "15 metre squared cubicles on station foregrounds" while works are being carried out to make them permanent, Arnaud Molinié, the head of Loxamed told SudOuest. 


The initial temporary set-ups will still offer a "comfortable, welcoming place where patients can be looked after well", Molinié said. Each location will have one registered nurse on site, but appointments will still be run by doctors, who will connect remotely.

Loxamed will reportedly work alongside the Regional Union for Health Professionals to seek out self-employed nurses looking to take part in the scheme, as well as self-employed doctors "with spare time for this".

Patients will be able to book appointments on the site, via SNCF's online services, or using the online booking platform, Doctolib.

READ MORE: How to use: French medical website Doctolib

Why train stations?

According to the head of SNCF Gares et Connexions, Raphaël Poli, train stations were a strategic choice.

"10 million people pass through train stations every day, and 90 percent of France's population lives within 10km of one", he told SudOuest.

As such, creating health facilities at stations will help to better reach those in medical deserts.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How sick is the French health system?

The stations expected to benefit from the scheme would be located in "priority intervention zones" (zone d'intervention prioritaire, ZIP), or areas most affected by healthcare shortages, as well as "complementary action zones" (zones d’action complémentaire, ZAC), which experience shortages but to a lesser degree than ZIPs.

These areas are defined by French health authorities, more info here. According to SudOuest, this means that 1,735 SNCF stations would be hypothetically eligible for a health facility to be added. Overall, the railway group subsidiary, SNCF Gares et Connexions manages 3,000 stations across France.

Ultimately, the stations will be chosen after negotiations between SNCF, French regional health services (ARS), and local authorities.


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