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'DHA envisions a healthier, happier community'

Article-'DHA envisions a healthier, happier community'

His Excellency Humaid Al Qutami
Interview with His Excellency Humaid Al Qutami, Chairman of Board and Director-General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA)
With recent research studies pointing to an upsurge in the UAE’s healthcare sector by 2021 owing to a shift in demand for preventive care, a rise in specialist medical services, and more efficiently integrated healthcare solutions, amongst others, Arab Health Magazine speaks to His Excellency Humaid Al Qutami, Chairman of Board and Director-General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to learn about the long-term outlook for the healthcare sector in Dubai, and the organisation’s strategies in improving healthcare services in the emirate

1. What are the major challenges that the growing demand for care brings about in Dubai, and how is the DHA working to address these challenges?
The healthcare sector in Dubai remains robust driven chiefly by continued growth in population and supported by economic growth and Dubai’s position as a financial, trading and aviation hub for the Middle East region. Rise in prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer etc. also contribute to a rise in health spending as it necessitates investment in specialised services and chronic disease management.

Higher life expectancy and consequent rise in ageing population in the next decade will lead to a rise in demand particularly for long-term care, rehabilitation and home-based health services.
Innovations in clinical services, the adoption of new technology in care pathways, and mobile health solutions are changing the way health services are delivered across the world, and we can expect to see new and innovative models of care and the use of technology in early diagnosis (e.g. genome sequencing), and treatment of diseases (through precision medicine, use of 3D printing, advanced robotic surgeries, use of VR and AI in disease management and treatment pathways).

Increased access to health services owing to mandatory health insurance in the emirate will also push up demand for services.

The key challenges confronting DHA are to control the rise in health spending, curb unnecessary utilisation of health services and improve the availability of high calibre clinical talent to support the needs of the health sector. Hence, we focus on preventive care to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). DHA also works on regulations, projects and initiatives with the Dubai and federal government stakeholders as well as the private sector to address these challenges, and improve the health eco-system.

2. What are the current trends in Dubai’s healthcare industry? What is your outlook for the health sector in the medium to long term?
Dubai provides encouragement and support for private sector investment and participation in the health sector, and this has resulted in significant growth in utilisation of health services in the private sector. The private sector accounted for over 75% of outpatient services and 70% of inpatient services in 2016. We expect to see continued rise in investments in innovative primary care models (especially ambulatory care and urgent care clinics) to address the demands of the under-served segments and for new residential communities in South Dubai.
Large investments are expected in specialised centres and centres of excellence for specialised services to provide access to high quality health services to UAE nationals, residents and visitors. Dubai is currently developing a Clinical Services Capacity Plan that looks into the demand, supply and gaps for health services and manpower over the next 30 years, which will be completed in early 2018. This will provide us with quantifiable information on investment priorities, and accordingly, efforts will be made to drive, support and encourage investments from the private sector, as well as foster partnerships to deliver health services that address the needs and gaps in the health sector.

3. As the Dubai Health Strategy 2021 completes almost two years of implementation, how would you evaluate its success in improving healthcare services in the emirate? What has been its impact on patients, healthcare professionals, facilities and the overall health sector in Dubai?
DHA’s Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 has three key goals: drive innovation and ensure governance, protect and improve population health and ensure patient happiness by providing world-class health services. These goals aim to fulfill DHA’s vision of progressing towards a healthier and happier community. Our focus is on working across a continuum of care, starting from early prevention and detection of diseases all the way to rehabilitation.

In the last two years, we have accomplished several key tasks aligned to the top three goals of the Dubai Health Strategy, which we had divided into immediate, medium and long-term goals.  Several of the immediate initiatives were accomplished and these include:

Achievements in innovation and ensuring governance

  1. Implementing easier medical regulation processes in line with international best practices. Total number of health professional license increased by 15 per cent and number of licensed facilities increased by about 27 per cent.

  2. DHA is working on revamping its health governance structure, which will result in increased accountability of hospitals and further improve patient safety and experience.

  3. Adoption of new health technologies such as telemedicine, RoboDoc and 3D printing with the aim of fostering innovation across the continuum of care in addition to smart applications.

  4. Completion of electronic medical records implementation across all DHA facilities. Recently, Rashid and Dubai Hospitals and 12 DHA PHC’s were felicitated with an award for achieving EMRAM stage 6 of patient data maturity.

Achievements in protecting and improving population health

  1. Currently, 92 per cent of hospitals in Dubai have completed their international accreditation, which is a significant jump from 86 per cent in 2015.

  2. Number of physicians per 10,000 of the population has reached 33 exceeding the national level (27) and approaching the level achieved by Sweden (39).

Achievements in realising patient happiness and providing world-class healthcare services

  1. The mandatory insurance coverage has been a direct source of patient happiness and today, 98 per cent of Dubai residents are covered under the scheme.

  2. Life expectancy of Dubai residents has reached almost 80 years exceeding that of the USA and approaching that of UK and Japan.

4. How has the mandatory health insurance scheme benefitted the sector in Dubai and how will it drive the sector’s maturity in the years to come?

In line with our vision that healthcare is a universal right and not a luxury, Dubai’s mandatory health insurance scheme has provided a basic blanket cover for its residents in a financially sustainable manner, irrespective of their income or strata.

Apart from access to care, it offers access to better quality of care and Dubai has standardised care by implementing clinical guidelines so that health facilities that provide better quality of care will be rewarded through the payment model. In addition, screening – especially for NCDs – is becoming a bigger part of the mandatory cover and is an important step towards our mission to provide preventive care and early detection of diseases.

In terms of driving the sector’s maturity, healthcare has evolved into a data-rich sector as we continue to capture vast amounts of healthcare information.  Such gold-standard evidence-based healthcare data will help us devise policies based on measured outcomes. In 2016, the number of healthcare transactions through health insurance was 63 million, which is valued at AED 9.6 billion, and which accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total health spending in the emirate.

Going further, innovation is now becoming key with programmes such as hospital at home for the elderly, which helps with early discharge of patients. Once home, patients are monitored through telemedicine and provided with customised homecare services. This service is provided for elderly UAE nationals under the Saada Health Insurance programme.

5. What steps are being taken by Dubai to transition from being a hub for the best available medical care to being a source of innovation in medical science?

DHA is currently establishing its innovation centre and partnering with world leaders in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to work on addressing the region’s healthcare challenges and utilising the best research minds while leveraging the best practices worldwide.

DHA’s close association with the Dubai Future Foundation Accelerator programme has led to collaborations with several upcoming firms for implementing innovations in healthcare delivery.

In its day-to-day healthcare delivery, DHA currently utilises a number of advanced technologies such as 3D printing for prosthetics, dentures, and cosmetology. In addition, Telemedicine is widely used, and DHA has piloted and is now implementing RoboDoc, which enables specialists to provide expert opinion to cases in remote areas, or for patients who are less mobile.

6. What are the long-term care services being planned to meet the specialised needs of the growing elderly population?

DHA has a robust homecare programme for elderly patients and we intend to expand this. Currently, we have a full-fledged nursing home and will soon be setting up another facility.
Rashid Hospital is equipped with an acute care unit for addressing the needs of elderly in-patients while DHA’s 15 PHCs provide frontline care with screening services for early detection of diseases so that patients can be referred to the geriatric clinics early on.

The DHA’s geriatric section is also working with the private sector to roll out joint initiatives and services.

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