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DHA creates the roadmap for an integrated health system

HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General, Dubai Health Authority, reveals how the Emirate has focused on innovation and smart technology in healthcare.

Technology has the power to transform healthcare and this is no different in the health investment space. Today, the challenge for health systems and technology providers is to design their technology in a matter that facilitates seamless integration into clinical workflows. This is the direction they are moving towards to allow technology and advanced analytics to support clinical care pathways, hospital efficiency and reduce workflow of health professionals and hospital management. Investment in healthcare is all set to completely adapt to meet changing technologies and cater to the diverse demographics.

In an interview with Omnia Health Magazine, HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General, Dubai Health Authority (DHA), says: “Innovation is undoubtedly a force of transformation and often smart technology and innovation go hand-in-hand. In the last few years, we have strategically placed a lot of focus on innovation and smart technology in the health sector in Dubai.

“We now have five smart robotic pharmacies across the DHA network of health facilities and hospitals. We launched an innovative home-delivery system for medications for DHA patients known as ‘Dawaee.’ We now have in place a robust Smart Home Care project, which is the first-of-its-kind in the MENA region to utilise wearables and IoT devices to address the needs of the geriatric and bedridden patients. The project bridges the gap between healthcare service delivery and patient needs using smart technology. From 300 patients almost two years ago to more than 1,300 patients in 2018, the rise in demand for this service has been multi-fold. Incorporating smart technologies in healthcare is an important priority as it enhances patient care, ensures better follow-up and empowers patients.”

Additionally, the DHA regularly carries out proof of concepts with cutting-edge technology firms through the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) project. In fact, the authority has successfully adopted technologies such as 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the health system.

For instance, the DHA works in close collaboration with the private sector and has jointly successfully worked on projects such as 3D prosthetics. It has also successfully carried out surgeries using 3D printed assistance and has introduced this technology in its dental services department.

Furthermore, the DHA run Dubai Diabetes Centre has recently completed a proof of concept project for the implementation of AI to detect diabetic retinopathy. The project is currently in the implementation phase and will be introduced across the Dubai Diabetes Centre, 13 DHA primary healthcare centres and certain DHA hospitals. The DFA team collaborates with both DHA (government) hospitals and health centres as well as the private sector to implement the latest technologies in the health sector in Dubai. “In the future, we will continue our foray into the use and implementation of technology not only for improved patient care but also across the health chain. For example, using coding and AI to improve the billing process. We strongly encourage innovation and continuous medical education and our doctors are encouraged to seek higher education as well as implement the latest technologies into their field of expertise,” the Director-General adds.

Dynamic health insurance system

Dubai has achieved its goal of ensuring essential health cover for all Dubai visa holders and almost 99 per cent of the population now has access to mandatory health insurance. The Emirate has 47 insurance companies that are licensed by the DHA, of which 12 are Participating Insurers that provide Essential Benefit Policies (EBP) for low-income workers.

Al Qutami highlights: “As the market matures, we want to continue to enhance benefits for every insured member, add preventive screening programmes, encourage employers to look beyond insurance for the wellness of their employees and at the same time provide an environment that supports the growth and maturity of the health insurance sector.

“According to our e-claims data from January to September 2019, the gross claims are worth AED12.2 Billion. We have 7,752 healthcare providers – this includes group and single facilities, there are 75 plus insurance companies and TPA’s and over 12,280 insurance products. In terms of claims, electronic claims were 26.8 million, electronic prescriptions were 6.42 million, submitted claims activity was 87.7 million and 25,603 were physician claiming.”

Recently, the DHA introduced screening and treatment for three types of cancers under the Basmah initiative. It also introduced screening and treatment for hepatitis C. To date, 100 enrolled patients have benefited from the cancer screening and 14 have been enrolled in HCV patient support programme of which seven have completed treatment successfully.

Both these programmes are aimed to benefit lower salary band workers, as the programmes are available for EBP holders. EBP is available for a fixed index rate for employees who earn Dh4,000 monthly or lower in salaries and their dependents; the premium ranges between Dh550 and Dh700 annually.

The maximum coverage per policy is Dh150,000. For an additional cost of Dh18 for hepatitis C and Dh19 for Basmah, EBP policyholders are provided with additional coverage for three types of cancer — breast, colorectal and cervical — as well as hepatitis C. The Basmah initiative for cancer treatment begins when the policyholder has exhausted this limit. The coverage plan is similar for hepatitis C and includes screening and treatment. This initiative is in line with the World Health Organisation’s goal to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.

“In order to promote early screening and management of diseases, we have also added screening services for diabetes, heart disease, new-born and developmental screening as part of the mandatory health insurance cover. This ensures that we detect diseases early on, which provides a possibility for better treatment outcomes, fewer complications and it reduces to cost of care to the economy.

“On one hand, we want to focus on building an enhanced health insurance system and the provision of specialised services; on the other, we want to raise public health awareness particularly about prevention of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). We want to encourage employers to create a work culture that promotes healthy habits so that together we create a culture of preventive health,” concludes Al Qutaimi.  

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