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As the population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continues to grow in tandem with its expanding economy, there is a pressing need for medical providers to plug the country’s healthcare supply gap.
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Founded in 2013, Healthpoint is just one of the many new health clinics in the UAE’s capital emirate Abu Dhabi. Owned by local government investment arm Mubadala, the hospital brings together four medical centres: Abu Dhabi Knee & Sports Medicine Centre, Wooridul Spine Centre, the Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery Centre, and the Plastic & Cosmetics Surgery Centre.
Saif Al Siksek, CIO for healthcare technology across the group, said technology is “deeply embedded” in the organisation and affects every business function.
Al Siksek, who manages 16 IT staff, said Healthpoint is using automated and interoperable healthcare information systems to “improve medical care, lower costs, increase efficiency and reduce error.”
He told Computer Weekly that technology improves things for healthcare suppliers and their customers. “When dealing with large amounts of patient data, services and treatments, technology is able to provide quick, convenient and effective services for patients and physicians,” he said.
For the business, revenues have increased partly due to the use of new technology. According to Mubadala’s annual report, the high performance of its healthcare division helped to drive a turnaround in the investment firm’s overall profits in 2016. Healthcare revenues were up nearly 30% to DHs1.4bn.
Al Siksek said technology is a major enabler for driving revenues by improving customer satisfaction to the extent that it encourages more Emiratis to stay home for treatment rather than travel abroad.
“Technology helps us provide patients with easier and preferred access to our services. [This includes] electronic medical records and analytics to track and improve the quality [of treatment],” said Al Siksek.
“We know the patients’ medical history prior to their arrival, which helps to put them at ease and expedite processes. This also prevents them from having to go through routine medical tests time and again, which can often prove time-consuming and costly.”
Al Siksek described some of the latest medical tech equipment the organisation is investing in, such as Narrow Band Imaging (NBI), which is used to diagnose minute pre-cancerous lesions, and Centaur, which is the computer-assisted device used in physiotherapy and rehabilitation treatment to strengthen core and spine muscles.
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The use of IT in healthcare, like in most sectors, is rapidly becoming a major service enabler, rather than back-end support. As a result of this, Al Siksek said his role – as well as the role of CIOs across the Middle East – is changing.
“IT departments are no longer seen as merely providing system support and maintenance, or aligning and streamlining software. With a rapidly evolving market, the role of the CIO in the Middle East is growing into that of a strategic partner,” he said.
“A well-qualified CIO is essential to introduce and integrate functions, processes and systems, which are pivotal to an organisation’s successful running.”
He added that CIOs increasingly have to be financially astute and have the ability to set and achieve strategic objectives.
Al Siksek said his job, while rewarding, comes with a set of tough challenges. “The first challenge is convincing business owners of the merit in adopting certain digital practices and other deep-seated changes, such as having physicians adapt to the new electronic medical record instead of the conventional way.
“The second major challenge is finding the right industrial partners, suppliers and resources to assist in transforming the business into a digital environment. There are a handful of healthcare partners and companies that can have their systems customisable to the workflows and processes, which we use in our practice at Healthpoint.”
He said there is currently a shortage specialist talent in the local market, which is a problem. “It is not easy to hire human resources who have worked on integrating healthcare technologies with healthcare systems. However, the market is growing, and we expect to have more skilled and qualified individuals in the field, in the near future,” he said.
For the time being, Al Siksek said he is primarily focused on establishing a standard healthcare process across specific medical practices.
“Getting doctors from different medical schools and practices to agree on a standard workflow process can prove challenging,” he said.
“However, we are collectively driven by the need to provide the highest quality patient care and services, and it is this common goal that helps us work together towards remaining industry leaders.”
For health companies to remain ahead of the curve, Al Siksek said IT leaders must constantly keep track of the latest technologies and services.
He referred to Healthpoint’s recent implementation of GetwellNetwork system, saying: “[GetwellNetwork] uses intuitive patient care technology designed to provide personalised services. This is applied through an in-room TV screen that educates patients about their condition and prescribed medication. It allows them to communicate with their caregivers, and is also extended to the patient’s family so that they can help in the recovery process.”
Al Siksek said he is positive about his firm’s future, particularly in the context of soaring GCC healthcare demand. “As is the case with most industries, the healthcare sector has great capacity for growth through digitisation and adopting the latest technologies,” he added.