Abu Dhabi and Canada exchange expertise in healthcare: HIE platform a milestone in Emirate’s healthcare sector

Abu Dhabi, the capital city and one of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirate (UAE), is one of the leaders in healthcare in the Middle East. The Emirate has 60 hospitals and 1,644 medical centres and clinics, providing healthcare services for more than three million people.

Quality has always been the keystone to excellence for the Abu Dhabi Emirate healthcare sector and remains at the forefront of its efforts. The Department of Health Abu Dhabi (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector, acknowledges the importance of creating a secure health information platform. The goals are to enable the exchange of data among providers, allow syndromic surveillance and management of chronic diseases, enable the government to create medical response action plans and finally, to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes.

As Abu Dhabi’s healthcare landscape and care locations grow, so does its ambition to compete internationally. Integrating health information to improve patient care quality and better manage costs has become more important than ever. This culminated in last month’s launch of the first Health Information Exchange (HIE) in the Middle East, named “Malaffi”.

Malaffi will be delivered and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Data Services, a new company established as part of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the DoH and Injazat Data Systems, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Investment Company. The software that supports the HIE platform will be delivered by Orion Health, selected in a rigorous vendor assessment process.

The new HIE is initially joined by six Abu Dhabi healthcare organizations, including SEHA (Abu Dhabi Health Services Company), Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Imperial College Diabetes Centre, Healthpoint, United Eastern Medical Services (UE Medical) group and Oasis Hospital, Al Ain.

Lessons from experience gained at several Canadian provinces played a critical role in bringing Malaffi to the UAE. A foundational element of the project is a series of success stories – all of which were underpinned by Orion Health technology in several Canadian provincial EHRs over the last decade.

The fundamental vision and objectives of Malaffi are closely akin to Canada’s EHR model. That is to create a longitudinal patient record with high quality, integrated information about patients across all aspects of care including demographics, clinical history and documentation, medication list, radiology history, diagnostic investigations, procedures and encounters.

A comprehensive EHR is of most value to patients with complex chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and COPD or patients with complex chronic care needs. Making this type of clinical information accessible irrespective of location, ensures care revolves around the patient and is based on a comprehensive understanding of their unique clinical situation.

The project will connect 2,000 public and private healthcare providers. It will enable physicians with tools to make rapid, well-informed decisions about their patients, enhance safety, reduce duplication of diagnostic procedures and improve quality of care and outcomes.

Also, as Abu Dhabi’s healthcare system expands, there is an increased need to centrally store, exchange and analyze the massive amounts of data. The HIE will facilitate this and enable critical care insights to be extracted from the data.

An excellent building block for Malaffi is the learnings and successes in Alberta with “NetCare,” the province’s electronic health record. Back in 2003, the Orion Health Clinical Portal was selected as the preferred tool for clinical data access for Edmonton hospitals and clinical facilities in the community. Alberta has been building on the Orion platform ever since.

New technology and integration services are added regularly. Most recently, Alberta Health rolled out the award-winning Community Information Integration (CII) Program. Patient information used in CII is now flowing from early adopter primary care clinics, using secured, remote cloud infrastructure and Orion’s Software as a Service. That project and subsequent successes throughout the development and roll out of Alberta Netcare became the foundation of future successes in several Canadian provincial jurisdictions:

  • Ontario’s Community Care Information Management – Integrated Assessment Record (IAR)
  • Quebec’s Remote Patient Monitoring and Electronic Health Record (RPM and Dossier de santé du Québec, DSQ)
  • New Brunswick’s e-Consult and Provincial Electronic Health Record
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Electronic Health Record -HEALTHeNL
  • Saskatchewan: E-Health Viewer

All of these projects provided critical insights for Orion to engage with Abu Dhabi on this project. Along with the development of highly sophisticated technology, these insights can be broken down into four best practices:

First, is a need for a clear articulation of the vision and values for stakeholders and the community at large.

Next, broad stakeholder engagement is crucial in personalized, meaningful ways, including to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, care coordinators, dentists, physiotherapists, social workers and others.

Third, EHRs must include functionality that is of enduring value to clinicians, such as comprehensive lab results reporting, quality medication data, tools for chronic disease management, care coordination and care transitions. These are tools that will increase usability and utility with clinicians, which is critical for long-term acceptance.

Finally, successful implementations require clinician leadership. In the case of EHR deployment, clinicians need to show their colleagues the high value that can be derived from the solution while also helping teams to push through the inevitable challenges as they arise.

Physicians can only make the best care decisions when they have a complete picture of a patient’s health. With best practices drawn from EHR implementation from Alberta and other jurisdictions in Canada, the Middle East’s healthcare will be more connected and complete than ever.

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