Between Morocco and France, the CEO of MedTrucks, Anass El Hilal, has only one obsession: bringing healthcare services to vulnerable people. To achieve this, he uses data to map medical deserts and optimize the deployment of e-health services within them. The start-up has just raised EUR 2m to scale up its solution.
Anass El Hilal, 33, has been developing innovative solutions in the health sector for almost a decade. In 2015, this biomedical engineer who graduated from Polytech Montpellier set up MedTrucks with two partners, Jamir Derrouiche and his sister Asmae El Hilal. Their objective: tackle the problem of medical deserts in Morocco using new technologies. The start-up is based in Casablanca at the social impact incubator Bidaya (Sprint network). It rapidly developed its solution which aims to supply Moroccan health players with medical trucks coupled with a mapping tool.
MedTrucks, which was awarded the 2016 Orange Social Entrepreneur Prize, has developed a pilot mobile dialysis project for sick people in rural areas to make their daily lives easier. To increase the efficiency of its mobile medical unit service, it has combined it with a tool to map the health sector in Morocco.
Back in 2016, using the data we managed to collect from regional health centers, we were pioneers in health mapping. There was no similar tool in Morocco, or even in France for that matter.
“By comparing a number of indicators and processing both geographical and statistical data, our solution identifies the need for access to healthcare of people, detects areas where there is a shortage of medical provision and thereby optimizes the organization of the rounds of our medical trucks”, says Anass El Hilal. He adds: “Back in 2016, using the data we managed to collect from regional health centers, we were pioneers in health mapping. There was no similar tool in Morocco, or even in France for that matter.”
While the concept of mobile mini health centers proved a big success in Morocco’s rural areas, MedTrucks was unable to raise sufficient financing to deploy its solution on a larger scale. There was still too much resistance to innovation. In 2018, MedTrucks decided to put its trucks back in the garage, along with its Moroccan ambitions.
But Anass El Hilal, who was in the Top 30 of the American magazine Forbes that year for “French-speaking personalities who shape Africa’s future”, had learned his lesson: the digital maturity of people and territories remains an essential condition to ensure the success of an innovation. And there was still limited interest in data up until a few years ago, in Morocco as elsewhere.
MEDTRUCKS REFOCUSES ITS SOLUTION ON FRANCE AND DATA
With a foothold in Montpellier, the other in Casablanca, Anass El Hilal, who was now alone at the helm of MedTrucks’ operations, reflected on the expertise developed in Morocco. “With few resources, we acquired real expertise in collecting and analyzing geomatic data”, he says. The young entrepreneur decided to refocus his solution on France and just on data.
The start-up was incubated at IMT Mines Alès (for the tech part) and Alter’Incub (for the social part) and developed a new platform called MedMapping. This enhanced version is based on multiple sources to identify medical deserts, including the extensive open data of the Health Insurance Fund and regional and local authorities. The health mapping of the whole of France was very rapidly finalized. The MedMapping tool attracted the attention of the consortium leading the e-Meuse Santé project, which the start-up joined in late 2018 as a partner company.
As a partner of the French Government via the e-Meuse Santé consortium, our solution has become a strategic tool to build territorial health services.
In September 2019, e-Meuse Santé was selected by the Prime Minister’s Office under a call for projects “Territories of Innovation”. Its operations focus on the Meuse the Meuse Department, the Grand Est Region and HauteMarne and Meurthe-et-Moselle Departments, along with 11 companies, including MedTrucks, and the main health players (Grand Est Regional Health Agency, Health Insurance Fund, etc.).
A total of over 50 partners are gathered in the same ecosystem. With a budget of EUR 24m, this experimental project, which has been scaled up since late 2020, is based on the innovative solutions of its partner companies. The objective is to facilitate access to healthcare in remote areas, while contributing to the development of an e-health sector in the Grand Est Region.
400 TELEMEDICINE SITES TO BE SET UP BY 2030
“In the end, the platform developed to manage trucks in Morocco is today used to manage health policies in France”, says Anass El Hilal with a smile. In practical terms, it still involves mapping the territory to identify medical deserts. MedTrucks subsequently selects local health intermediaries (pharmacies, nursing homes…) in order to provide a telemedicine system with its consortium partners. To do so, and this is another innovation compared to the initial project in Morocco, the start-up also evaluates the digital (fiber, 4G) and organizational maturity of the site, as well as the relevant health professionals (equipment, connections, training, etc.).
If all the indicators are green, the consortium installs a telemedicine space, while MedTrucks measures the impact of this new healthcare service. Alongside the e-Meuse Santé project, which is planned to last 10 years, 400 sites are to be deployed based on the roadmap of the Grand Est region.
With the Covid-19 health crisis, we can see how important data is for managing an effective health policy.
“Today, there are many digital services available. But for them to be disseminated as close as possible to territories, especially in priority areas, there are many steps to take with essential prerequisites. And it’s the mapping that makes it possible to complete this type of project”, says the entrepreneur. “With the Covid-19 health crisis, we can see how important data is for managing an effective health policy.” Indeed, the pandemic has given a boost to telemedicine and forced local authorities to take up the issue, which was until now the preserve of the State.
The entrepreneur believes that burdensome regulation in the health sector in France with, for example, very strict medical confidentiality, is also a barrier to innovation. It is for this reason that the e-Meuse Santé project provides an alternative framework to experiment new solutions more freely. “As a partner of the French Government via the e-Meuse Santé consortium, our solution has become a strategic tool to build territorial health services”, says Anass El Hilal.
Following a ramp-up in the Grand Est region in late 2020, the challenge for the Franco-Moroccan entrepreneur now lies in capitalizing on this experimentation to scale up his mapping platform. To this end, he is continuing discussions with the Ministry for Solidarity and Health, the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC) and Banque des Territoires to make the MedMapping tool available to all regional and local authorities by this autumn.
At the same time, in addition to a grant received as a partner of e-Meuse Santé, the start-up has just raised EUR 2m from the Banque des Territoires. The purpose of this first fundraising drive is to accelerate the growth of the start-up, which today employs four people. Alongside this project, MedMapping is positioned as a BtoB solution which, in additional to regional and local authorities, targets regional health agencies, as well as private players such as complementary health insurance companies and telemedicine companies by providing unlimited access to its platform in exchange for a subscription to an annual license.
In 2020, Anass El Hilal reconnected with his Moroccan roots by cofounding CasaNurse in Casablanca with two partners, the Franco-Moroccan Laila Hamdouni and the German Maximilian Bock. The startup, which has just obtained its first grant, deploys nurses that visit the homes of frail patients, after training and equipping them. The trio’s project has allowed about twenty nurses to join the formal sector, as home care is very often provided in an informal manner in Morocco, with no traceability. But unlike the initial project of MedTrucks, Anass El Hilal, who sees himself first and foremost as “an engineer and social entrepreneur”, is not using a hightech solution this time. The reason for this is that digital maturity is still in its infancy in the Kingdom.
In Morocco, Arma Casablanca is digitalizing waste management
In Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, population growth and urbanization generate an exponential increase in household waste (evaluated at a million tons a year). However, the city has managed to set up an increasingly structured waste management system by calling on private players. This is the case with Arma Casablanca, a subsidiary of the Moroccan group Arma, which recently won a contract for the management of the management of the urban sanitation and household waste collection service in part of the municipality.
This delegated management contract aims to improve waste management by digitalizing collection operations and installing smart meters to geolocate the rolling stock and process the volumes of data collected on the bins (weight, number of collections, etc.). This first in Morocco will optimize the circuits and improve the real-time monitoring of services.
In early 2021, Arma Casablanca was allocated a loan to finance these strategic investments by three local banks (including BMCI, the Moroccan subsidiary of BNP Paribas Group), with a EUR 15m guarantee from PROPARCO. This operation will provide over 1.4 million residents with access to digitalized and innovative waste management (smart city technologies) and support over 2,400 direct jobs.