Integrating Health Technologies in Health Services for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Qualitative Study


Background: Lebanon currently hosts around one million Syrian refugees. There has been an increasing interest in integrating eHealth and mHealth technologies into the provision of primary healthcare to refugees and Lebanese citizens.

Objective: We aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the potential for technology integration in primary healthcare provision in the context of the protracted Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon.

Methods: A total of 18 face-to-face semi structured interviews were conducted with key informants (n=8) and healthcare providers (n=10) involved in the provision of health care to the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon. Interviews were audio recorded and directly translated and transcribed from Arabic to English. Thematic Analysis was conducted.

Results: Study participants indicated that varying resources, primarily time and the availability of technologies, at primary healthcare centers, to be one of the main challenges for integrating technologies for the provision of healthcare services for refugees. This challenge is compounded by refugees being viewed by participants as a mobile population thus making primary healthcare centers less willing to invest in refugee health technologies. Lastly, participants’ views regarding the health and technology literacies varied and that was considered to be a challenge that needs addressing for the successful integration of refugee health technologies.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that in the context of integrating technology into the provision of healthcare for refugees in a low or middle income country, such as Lebanon, some barriers for technology integration related to the availability of resources are common with those found elsewhere. However, we identified participants’ views of refugees’ health and technology literacies to be a challenge specific to the context of this refugee crisis. These challenges need addressing when considering refugee health technologies. This could be done by: (1) increasing the visibility of refugee capabilities, and (2) configuring refugee health technologies so that they may create spaces in which refugees are empowered within the healthcare system and can work towards debunking the views surfaced in this study.

Journal of Medical Internet Research
Reem Talhouk
PhD Student (2016-2020)