Intel looks to better healthcare

Chip company developing products to lessen healthcare errors

Tags: ContractsHealthHealthcareIntel CorporationSaudi ArabiaUnited Arab Emirates
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Intel looks to better healthcare Dr Mark Blatt, director of the Digital Health Group, Health Industry Solutions says that the Middle East faces unique problems when it comes to implementing technology in healthcare.
By  Georgina Enzer Published  November 10, 2010

Intel's health arm is currently bringing advanced communications, telecoms and computer technology into hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Middle East, to improve patient care and lessen human error.

The company is aiding in the development and deployment of intelligent IV pumps, homecare systems, remote monitoring systems, telemedicine and business intelligence to help doctors and nurses make better decisions in a more timely fashion with fewer errors.

Speaking to itp.net at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), Dr Mark Blatt, director of the Digital Health Group, Health Industry Solutions said: "We work towards getting devices smarter, maybe you have an IV pump, a mechanical pump, but how might you add business technology to the IV pump so that it wont make the mistake that a human will make in giving medication? Making that technology simple enough so that it can be used and save lives, it can automate processes and it can add business intelligence, which you might have stored locally or have to pull down from the net. That imbedded technology is a big goal for Intel."

Doctor and nurse error contributes to thousands of unnecessary patient deaths every year according to Blatt, and it is this error Intel wants to help eliminate.

"The US did a series of studies about a decade ago that showed we harm or kill about 17,000 people a year through medication errors. England did a similar study and so did Australia and they came up with very similar numbers. Unless the Emirates or the Middle East in extraordinary, or has no comparison to the rest of the world, it's likely the same thing is happening here. You just have not studied it or talked about it," said Blatt.

Intel was instrumental in creating a new mobile tablet device called the mobile clinical assistant. This purpose built tablet helps nurses dispense medication more safely. This technology is now successfully used in both Al Ain Hospital and King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The company is also providing the technology architecture and knowledge, learnt through previous similar ventures in the UK and China for a large hospital connection project in Saudi. The government wants to connect several hundred hospitals together using smart technology. The Saudi government is also looking at implementing medical device standards and promotion these standards across their health network.

But despite the wealth and eagerness to implement new technologies, the Middle East faces a unique set of problems, which is holding back rapid technological advancement, according to Blatt.

"We go into modern hospitals here which have incredibly advanced tech and we find people don't know how to use PCs. You would not find this in Europe because money is an issue and they would only buy the technology they would use. Here you buy things and not necessarily use them. In some ways that is good for us because you bought it, but I want to see you successful, I want to see you thrive with technology so that it improves the health and well-being of your citizens," said Blatt.

Blatt believes these challenges can be overcome in time with the correct education, beginning in schools, and a change in attitudes towards technology.

"I think there is hope and a positive message for transition and growth because I see the leadership looking to change, to improve the lives of its citizens. Because you have that political will and determination, I think you will succeed. It is not going to change as quickly as you put up Burj Khalifa, in four years you will not make someone give up 100 years of habits," he said.

Intel is currently looking at how to make applications more accessible and interchangeable so that you can have an open ecosystem for the download of applications which can run on multiple platforms.

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