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Driving digital transformation in quality management

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Interview with Dr Peter Lachman, CEO, The International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua), Dublin, Ireland

At Global Health Exhibition, Dr Peter Lachman, CEO, International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua), Dublin, Ireland, will be discussing digital health and the future going forward. He will be shedding light on how digital technology can be leveraged to improve safety culture, collaboration, competency and leadership.

In an interview with Omnia Health Insights, he said: “Due to the pandemic, the move towards digital health has been accelerated. We are often asked questions such as how can digital health make a difference in transforming how we manage quality? I would say it's a challenge we need to tackle head-on in the future.”

Dr Lachman has been the CEO of ISQua for the last four and a half years. The organisation provides accreditation standards for international accreditation bodies, through its accreditation association called ISQua External Evaluation Association (IEEA).

“We accredit accrediting bodies around the world such as Joint Commission International (JCI), therefore, we set the international standards on quality and safety,” he explained. “We also accredit accrediting bodies in Saudi Arabia as well around the world and have over 60 different organisations that we work with.”

Dr Lachman said that the standard and quality of care is very high in KSA. “The country is leading the way in patient safety and has put it as a priority area on its agenda. Moreover, the hospitals that are accredited here are very good.”

Secondly, ISQua works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), in supporting patient safety movements and also contributes towards technical papers on patient safety. Furthermore, their experts provide advice to member states that request assistance on matters regarding patient safety. “We have made patient safety a focus area and are working to improve it on many different fronts,” he added.

Shift towards digitalisation

When asked about how digital technologies can impact quality management for the better, Dr Lachman gave the example of the banking industry. He said that there was a time when people wouldn’t be able to get money unless they went to a bank. But today, people hardly go to the bank and most transactions get done electronically.

“If you had asked the banking industry 25 years ago, how they would operate in the future, they would never have thought that everything would become electronic. The industry went from a more face-to-face experience to digital and is continuously improving because there was a need to improve security. In healthcare, we have a model of accreditation and standard evaluation, which is built on face-to-face assessments. However, the pandemic has challenged that because you can’t visit hospitals as frequently as before. So, now we have to think outside the box and think of new ways of assessing how the quality of care can be maintained and improved and how it can be evaluated electronically,” he highlighted.

Today, factors such as how healthcare systems can move to telemedicine are being considered. Also, there is an increased focus on how systems can ensure that everyone has equal access to the internet, digital health and their medical records.

He added: “Likewise, for accreditation, we have to do exactly the same. How can we have access to what goes on in the hospital in a digital way? And think of new ways of evaluating? The challenge for the next year or two is to work out how this can happen.”

Building a strong quality program

In order to build a strong quality programme, Dr Lachman stressed that the first thing is to be able to measure quality but to do that one needs to understand what needs to be measured (for instance, patient safety) and measure it over time.

To illustrate, he gave the example of the airline industry, which often gets compared to the healthcare industry. During the early days of aviation, several crashes would be reported, but today crashes are quite rare. “In the 1980s, the airline industry made quality their business. So, when you fly in a plane, the pilot says, “My job is to keep you safe, not my job is to fly the plane.” That is something we need to do in healthcare as well. We need to reach a stage where we are treating and caring for patients and making sure they are safe and at the same time ensure they receive high-quality care,” he emphasised.

Dr Lachman said that the digital age allows many avenues to improve and evolve. With just a smartphone, patients can get information in real-time about their day-to-day activities, quality of life, how well they are sleeping, what they should eat, etc.

“We in healthcare haven't really taken that opportunity so the best way is to have transparent sharing of data so that the everyone knows what's going on,” he said. “The person who's receiving care gets data on their smartphone and can access their results with ease. The risk is how we manage that data. Also, it is important to understand how misinformation can be managed.”

He concluded: “The COVID-19 pandemic has given new challenges to countries worldwide. There is a need today to collaborate and think of how healthcare systems can be transformed post this period and going forward what can we do better.”

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Dr Lachman will be speaking at the ‘Getting digitally connected to transform quality management’ session at 5pm (GMT+3) on December 10 at the Global Health Exhibition

Digital health opportunities in KSA

Moderating the ‘Getting digitally connected to transform quality management’ session at Global Health Exhibition is Dr Abdullaziz Abdulbaqi, Assistant Deputy Minister for Planning & Organisation Excellence, Ministry of Health, KSA. As part of his role, Dr Abdulbaqi supervises initiatives that relate to data quality, data management, and quality management.

He shared: “At the session, the panel speakers and I will shed light on quality management during COVID-19, and about the future of quality and how technology will play a crucial role in enabling good quality in healthcare.”

When asked about the impact of digital health on improving patient outcomes, he said that it enhances accessibility and also identifies risk areas and ways in which healthcare programmes can be improved. 

According to Dr Abdulbaqi, some of the opportunities of digital health are that it allows for the integration of data and creates an efficient system that offers more transparency and connectedness.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the major priorities of the government of KSA,” he said. “We're working and developing the infrastructure required to implement AI because we can’t use it efficiently without having a solid infrastructure of data management integration. This will help us in improving quality as well as in areas such as standardisation, coding, etc.”

TAGS: Quality
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