Having been running for just over three years, Abu Dhabi’s Specialized Rehabilitation Hospital (SRH) is considered one of the most advanced in its field in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But being newly established doesn’t mean that its team has been taking digital transformation and the adoption of new technology for granted.
In reality, however long a healthcare facility has been running shouldn’t influence – or hinder – its advancement. And SRH has been focusing on evolving from day one, says a member of its senior management.
“We are one of the cutting-edge hospitals in our field [and so] digital transformation has been a significant part of our journey. We develop everything with digital technologies in mind,” explains Dr. Farrukh Hamid, Chief Operating Officer – Outpatient for Capital Health, the private integrated healthcare group that operates SRH. “We have [offerings] that make it easier for patients to access care, and also help physicians provide better care, and [in turn] provide better outcomes. We’ve been very pleased with the outcome so far.”
Launched in 2019, SRH is a specialty hospital that’s “setting out to change the rehabilitation statistics of our region,” according to its mission statement. The purpose-built facility – located opposite the UAE capital’s Department of Health – features state-of-the-art equipment and offers specialist clinical expertise that tailors to individualised needs. Affiliated with the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, SRH runs Bayt Al Qudra – or “the house of ability” – a facility that helps patients through recovery from life-changing illness or injury.
In addition to SRH, the Abu Dhabi-headquartered Capital Health also operates the Health Shield Medical Center, a multi-specialty healthcare facility with outpatient capabilities that launched in 2018.
PATIENT CARE & EFFICIENCY
For Anne-Marie Schreuder, Chief Administrative Officer of Clinical Services for Capital Health, the group’s continuous commitment towards digital transformation is resulting in two major wins.
“With the adoption of new technology, we have secured high-quality patient care as well as business efficiency,” she says. “For our patients, it leads to better clinical outcomes, as well as patient safety. It improves communication, and documentation across all of our entities.”
Tools introduced to the facilities in recent years include an automatic queuing system for its Outpatient Departments (OPDs), bots for frequent queries or frequently asked questions, and the implementation of an electronic medical record (EMR) system. For Capital Health, this has been TrakCare by InterSystems.
“For the majority of our staff, it was the first time they had used TrakCare,” says Dr. Hamid. “Obviously, [as with] any new software, you only get comfortable after using it [for a while]. It’s a work in progress, just like any software.”
But the adoption of the EMR has been well-received, he says.
“It’s a positive journey. It’s a new software, so the training needs to continue and it is an ongoing process. Optimisation is part of any software, so we are working on that and it’s evolving.”
One way Dr. Hamid optimised use of the system is through hiring an additional personnel to focus on documentation.
“One of the initiatives [I took was to provide] all our doctors with [medical] scribes,” he says. “Scribes are the ones who are actually using TrakCare directly and doing the documentation. I want the doctor to spend more time with the patients, and I want the patients to get full attention from the doctor.”
THE VALUE OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Digitalisation and advancement not only benefits patients, but also a facility’s workforce.
“Being the biggest department here at Capital Health, the nursing department has seen the value of digital documentation,” explains SRH Clinical Resource Nurse, Ben Joseph Sabilala. “With the implementation of TrakCare, we are able to see the importance of patient care through accurate information being presented in the document itself. Apart from the efficiency that we got with digitalisation, it also gives us the opportunity to save time and money.”
Govinda Budhathoki, Acting Senior Team Lead for IP Therapy at SRH agrees.
“It has a huge impact as an employee,” he says. “You can track your quality of work on a daily basis, in real time. That has been a very vital part of the transformation. It has also provided [us] with an excellent tool to evaluate and monitor the outcomes of the patient.”
Employee engagement is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, states Schreuder.
“Employee engagement is key in [the] successful implementation of any EMR system. At Capital Health, we realised that very early on, and therefore, we ensured that our employees were part of the selection of our EMR, as well as the development and the integration,” she says. “That is what made it successful. If you don’t have that engagement, it will be a very, very difficult task to complete.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF INVESTMENT
One team no doubt engaged from the very beginning of the process is the Information Technology (IT) department, and for Pankaj Bajaj, Head of IT at Capital Health, investing in the right digital tools is crucial.
“[With any organisation, if] you have a lack of investment in IT, you [won’t be able to] achieve exactly what you are looking for,” he says. “Since the beginning, our board and our management were very [focused] and decided we need to implement a world-renowned system.”
Tools brought in so far, he adds, have included Microsoft 365 and Oracle Fusion, while the group is currently in talks with AWS around clinical labs.
Bajaj adds: “The most important [consideration] is [the] patient experience we are giving. [This includes] how we are engaging our patients, [and] what technology and advancement we are [offering] to the care providers.”
Naturally, adoption doesn’t come without its share of challenges.
“There are two generations of patients that the majority of physicians deal with: millennials and those who are older,” says Dr. Hamid, with his patients ranging from “young athletes who are 19 years old” to those who are over the age of 90. “The comfort level with digital transformation has been different for the two generations. But what I’ve noticed is that, with time, the older patients are also getting comfortable with it.
“The idea that the information may not be safe on the internet is [a] fear that is also going away, especially living in this country [the UAE]. I think it’s very well protected.”
From an industry perspective, regulations need to be updated in line with the speed of technology, Dr. Hamid adds.
“Right now, we are using telemedicine as a local [offering]. But I think telemedicine should evolve and get bigger, [meaning] I can contact an expert in Sweden, for example. That requires more regulatory changes,” he says. “So, right now if I [wanted to consult] with [a very high-level expert in their field], I cannot, because they don’t have a licence here. The regulatory [issues] are lagging behind the technology; they’ve not caught up.”
With the UAE being one of the most advanced countries for healthcare transformation in the Middle East region, there’s more to come for Capital Health in the coming years.
Says Schreuder: “We’ve improved many, many areas of healthcare significantly. But there’s always room for improvement. And I think one of the things, for me personally, is to have a seamless patient experience with access to care for everybody, and to make that access much easier than it currently is.”
Sabilala adds: “In the coming future. I would like to see artificial intelligence integration into the healthcare system. This helps [with] automation of the processes that we have, so this will really make patient care more accessible, and at the same time, more sustainable for everyone.”
Finally, for Dr. Hamid, there’s another area to watch out for, particularly with regards to rehabilitation.
“I think robotics will play a significant role in patient care. In Japan – where there is a huge shortage of human personnel to provide care – robots are being developed to provide personal care. And I think, in the future, they will be used more and more,” he says. “So, I’m with Elon Musk on that!”