MOHAP builds systems for healthy UAE

The Ministry of Health & Prevention has undertaken a wide-reaching program of digital transformation, which aims to empower healthcare professionals, providers and patients, and build the foundation for a more healthy nation

Tags: HealthcareMinistry of Health - UAEUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
MOHAP builds systems for healthy UAE Dr Ali Juma Alajme, Director of IT Department, and Mubaraka Ibrahim, Director of Health Information Systems Department, Ministry of Health & Prevention. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  May 4, 2018

Across all the fields of smart government and the digital transformation of government services, no sector has quite the same ability to reach so many people, and to make so much difference, as healthcare. Access to medical services is a requirement for everyone, through every stage of life, and improvements to healthcare systems have the ability to bring the most meaningful benefits to people everywhere.

As such, healthcare is one of the key pillars for government digitalisation projects, both in how governments manage their healthcare, and how those medical services are delivered. In the UAE, the Ministry of Health & Prevention (MOHAP) is responsible for all areas of public healthcare and policy, and co-ordination with the private sector.

The digital transformation journey for MOHAP covers many different aspects of the healthcare system, with integration and interaction across many of the different stakeholders in the sector in the UAE, but today they can broadly be separated into the ICT infrastructure and data systems, and the systems and services that are directly related to healthcare provision. .GOV spoke to Dr Ali Juma Alajme, Director of the IT Department, and Mubaraka Ibrahim, Director of Health Information Systems Department, to discuss each of these sectors respectively, and how MOHAP is planning a world class healthcare system for the UAE.

Information systems

MOHAP’s digital transformation on the systems and data side have involved several different projects, according to Dr Ali Juma Alajme.

One aspect of the digital transformation has been digitalising existing services. MOHAP has around 38 main services, and around 300-400 sub-services, and there have been many projects to digitalise these, beginning with m-transformation, which included 50 services. These transformation projects have involved working with many different stakeholders in government and outside to update services and deliver them in online form.

The services drive aims to digitalise all of the Ministry’s services, which cover a very wide range of activities, everything from medical records, to physician licensing and business permits for medical facilities, and the Ministry is working extensively to re-engineer processes and to switch to digital services, to improve accuracy, reduce physical visits to MOHAP facilities and increase efficiency.

Because of the size of the Ministry and the large number of services, the IT department was restructured to be able to handle the volume of requirements. The restructured IT function includes a team to manage quality of services and the re-engineering process, and a strategy and excellence team to ensure better processes and better customer service. A team within the Prime Minister’s Office provides systems to monitor and manage the happiness of the users.

The Ministry has worked closely with all these stakeholders, to create customer-centric services that will meet the requirements of the various groups, to ensure the best possible uptake. At present around ninety percent of services have been digitalised, and the aim is to achieve complete digitalisation by the end of the year, Alajme said.

The Ministry’s other main drive has focused on a more fundamental approach to healthcare systems, specifically in creating the underlying framework and system that will enable management and sharing of data across all parts of the healthcare sector, both public and private, and the creation of centralised systems that will benefit all parties. The main project is the National Unified Medical Record initiative (NUMR), which has been created to enable exchange of patient data across all different parts of the healthcare system.

“We want to link all the government and public healthcare providers, to make it easier to provide better healthcare, to reduce the cost, and to reduce medical errors,” Alajme explained. “The data will be shared between them in a secure manner, so they can take better decisions to provide better healthcare to the patients.”

The NUMR is a key strategic project for MOHAP, which is being executed in partnership with systems vendor Pure Health, along with co-ordination from other government stakeholders including Health Authority Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Health Authority, the Abu Dhabi Health Services, the UAE Armed Forces Medical Services, Dubai Health Care City, and the Emirates Identity Authority (now Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship).

The NUMR creates a single patient record across the entire UAE healthcare system, enabling sharing of records and the application of standards for patient data. The system will also create a centralized source of data and analytics for planning and strategic purposes.

One important aspect of the NUMR is to create a system that will apply specific standards for medical records, to enable accurate interchange of data. The planning for the NUMR included the formation of a national committee, which includes all the government stakeholders, to agree upon standards for adoption, which will be followed by the government entities, who were already following global standards, and the private sector.

The project has been careful to ensure that other stakeholders, particularly in the private sector, will still be able to interchange data with the NUMR, regardless of their existing systems, Alajme said: “We don’t want to remove their investment, because we have to get their adoption of the system, so it will be a simple and secure way to integrate between the systems, whether public or private sector. [Stakeholders] have invested in their own electronic medical records, so we are going to create a layer were we can integrate between our population health system and HIS exchange, and their system.”

Another part of the project is to provide systems to healthcare providers that lack digital systems, to allow them to participate in the healthcare information exchange. MOHAP is developing a secure, cloud-based EMR (electronic medical record) system for this purpose.

“There are some small clinics and other entities who don’t have a system to begin with, so that is why we came up with the solution of the cloud EMR, to provide them with an EMR system where they can enter and exchange data, between them and us.” Alajme said.  “The cloud service will reside within the UAE, so we can be sure that the information is not in other countries for privacy, and we will ensure the proper rights and access controls, so that anyone who is not authorised cannot access the data.”

A similar solution has been developed by MOHAP to support private sector suppliers who require financial systems. The medical revenue cycle management system will be available in the cloud, and private healthcare providers will be able to access it through a variety of models. MOHAP is also conducting a proof-of-concept study to see how this system can run on blockchain.

Other data systems include the disease surveillance system, which is intended to provide nationwide monitoring, reporting and alerts to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases or other health threats.

Alajme said that the aim of the NUMR and related projects is to improve the overall quality of healthcare: “The aim of the initiative is better healthcare services, less duplication of the data and better quality of the health records; second is to reduce the medical errors and to empower the decision makers with the data that is relevant to them, and empower the healthcare providers with better systems. These are the main pillars of the healthcare automation system.”

Empowered healthcare

The focus of MOHAP’s digital transformation efforts is enhancing healthcare, and that is particularly the case for the Health Information Systems Department. Mubaraka Ibrahim, Director of the department, said that its role of the department is to build up the solutions which empower the physicians and medical staff, and empower the patients, in line with the vision of the Ministry.

These aims link in to projects such as the NUMR and the Health Information Exchange, which will enable sharing of data between public and private sector health providers, Ibrahim explained, which in turn will empower patients and physicians and provide better healthcare.

A major project in healthcare systems for MOHAP is Wareed, the Ministry’s main health information system which has been rolled out to all of the main hospitals under MOHAP in recent years. The Wareed project is designed to establish an electronic health record (EHR) between UAE health facilities and MOHAP patients through the use of an integrated health care IT system. Each patient will be assigned a record number to access facilities and consult physicians, this will help facilitate patient transfer and provide the exchange of medical record data between public hospitals and private clinics. The system also gives healthcare providers access to health information, including scheduling, registration, emergency, pharmacy, radiology, surgery and other health data.

Wareed has been expanded with a Smart Electronic Patient Portal, available as a website and an app, which further empowers the patients by giving them access to their health records, the ability to review healthcare appointments, medication plans and other services.

Creating effective systems that will bring healthcare benefits requires close collaboration with all of the stakeholders, Ibrahim said. The HIS department works with the stakeholders to identify their requirements and priorities, and has built the frameworks so that collaboration continues as projects move from ideas to proof of concept to deployment.

“Our main way of working is to work with the stakeholders, the hospitals and the primary healthcare centres. We sit with them prior to every year and take their requirement, we set the priorities and see what systems can actually help them with their requirements,” she said.

“We know what is in the market when it comes to new solutions, so we sit with our main business owners, and discuss with them what are the areas that we feel require enhancements, and we listen from their side for the areas where they feel we should work with them. We usually start with a feasibility study and a proof of concept to see if it will have a good return on investment — not monetary, but a return for the healthcare delivery for our patients.”

Supporting these discussion are committees which have been built up by the department, for key groups, such as a nursing committee and physician committee, with the committees involved in all organisational changes.

“For us to be a leader and to be successful, we need to work hand-in-hand, and work collaboratively with our internal stakeholders — that is what enables our projects to be rolled out smoothly,” Ibrahim added.

The different stakeholders are also closely involved in adoption efforts and ensuring that users are able to get onboard with new services and solutions. Subject matter experts, who come from many different fields such as physicians, pharmacists, lab technicians and so on, have been selected from across the different facilities and departments, and these people become the champions for the information systems, Ibrahim said, helping users to realise the benefits of the systems.

The department also have a learning team, which is deployed to ensure that all users get the training that they need to use the system effectively, with support staff on hand to help with any issues.

Healthcare services is also an area where cutting-edge technologies are having an impact. The Ministry has developed a project, in collaboration with other departments, to deploy a robotic pharmacy in Fujairah Hospital, which automates the handling and prescription of drugs, to speed up the process and eliminate human errors.

The Ministry is also working on a project with IBM and Cognit, to utilise IBM’s Watson health artificial intelligence in the treatment and care of diabetic patients.

“We want to see how we can implement that as a collaboration between the Ministry and our partners,” Ibrahim said. “We are also aligning with the UAE vision for AI, artificial intelligence is one of the factors that everybody is looking at very seriously. As a Ministry we are looking at whether we can build our future strategy around AI.

“AI currently is happening in different areas of healthcare - in treatment and diagnosis, in healthcare plans, even in learning — these are major areas where we see AI taking place.”

Another new solution is a ‘smart room’, developed with healthcare specialist Cerner, which creates a highly connected patient room and care facility. The patient’s room is equipped with dashboards to provide information from the electronic medical record at the point of care, and infotainment systems for patients, which gives them information on their progress and care programs.

The room also includes smart-enabled medical systems such as drug pumps, and enhanced communications to mobile devices for doctors and nurses, which deliver alerts on specific patients and situations. The systems also includes RFID capabilities to track equipment, and even patients, around the facility.

Other systems which have been rolled out or are under consideration include a blood bank system in Sharjah to exchange information on blood supplies, and programs for dietary management and dental management.

Another area of focus is telemedicine and remote care. The Ministry has direct control over 16 hospitals and 79 primary healthcare centres, Ibrahim said, so with such a large estate, it makes sense to look at how telemedicine and teleconsulting can be used to connect physicians, staff and patients without having them in the same physical location. A proof of concept has been carried out to link the intensive care units in hospitals in Sharjah and Kalba, and the Ministry is exploring how systems can be used to improve collaboration, for remote monitoring, delivering healthcare at home and so on.

There is a lot of study to be done by the Ministry to keep up with the new technologies, Ibrahim said, but the aim is to ensure that the best solutions are deployed to provide the best possible healthcare.

“The direction of the Ministry is to align our major strategic objectives with the newest technologies that are in the market. There are a lot of technologies, but our main role is to get the best for the Ministry, and to align and work towards completing the vision of the UAE of having a healthy community.”

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code