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Department of Health’s Malaffi: Connected information facilitating smarter care

Atif Al Braiki, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Health Data Services, sheds light on Malaffi’s role in combatting COVID-19 and what the future holds for the digital platform.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, connectivity in healthcare has never been more urgent and important than now. It has been widely reported that patients with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms from the infection. By having access to real-time test results and the relevant information from a patient’s medical history, front-line medical workers can be empowered to make quicker and more effective first-response and treatment decisions, for instance, when patients are in the ER for urgent care.

This is where Malaffi, one of the key initiatives of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DOH), offers a helping hand.

To date, Abu Dhabi’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) platform has stored more than 80 million unique clinical records and provides access to over 24,500 end-users, from more than 500 facilities. The list of facilities includes all the major healthcare groups in Abu Dhabi, such as SEHA, Mediclinic, Mubadala Healthcare, United Eastern Medical Services, Capital Health, NMC Healthcare and VPS Healthcare and most of the stand-alone hospitals.

To strengthen the response to the pandemic, Malaffi has allowed urgent access to its platform for providers that are not yet connected to the platform and need to have access to this information to treat COVID-19 patients.

Atif Al Braiki, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Health Data Services told Omnia Health Magazine: “We have also onboarded the first stand-alone clinic, which marks an important milestone and we will continue on this track until we connect all healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi. All this was achieved only a year after the start of the onboarding process, a remarkable success, that many industry leaders regarded as one of the fastest HIE implementations worldwide. This could have not been done without the support of the DOH and the efforts of the teams of the providers, that worked restlessly with our teams to make sure their facilities are connected. This continued even during the pandemic, and we are very grateful for the support we saw on the ground.”

Healthier Abu Dhabi

One of the key benefits of Malaffi is that it provides the DOH with invaluable population health information, which will help identify public health risks, launch health awareness campaigns and prevention programmes specific to the needs of the population for a healthier Abu Dhabi.

The platform supports the DOH by providing robust population health data. The information around the broader trends in the population’s health enables the surveillance and management of chronic diseases, which can help drive and support public health policies and programmes in Abu Dhabi. This helps promote better health across the Emirate’s population.

“A healthy community is a happy community that can make greater contributions to create a prosperous society,” highlighted Al Braiki. “In fact, this pandemic showed the real power of centralised data for the swift identification of public health risks and emergency preparedness.”

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Atif Al Braiki

Malaffi also allows accurate monitoring and reporting of the quality of care, utilisation trends and care gap identification, and enables the reallocation of resources, where it is most needed.

Moreover, the platform is the first of its kind in the region that is working towards having a significant impact on the delivery of healthcare. It aims to not only improve the speed, quality and safety of healthcare in Abu Dhabi, but also the cost of patient care.

"Our reality is that healthcare costs are rising. Although this is a global challenge, global studies report that this trend is steeper in the region and the UAE,” said Al Braiki. “Cost containment is one of the goals of HIE platforms around the world. It does not mean cutting corners or lessening the quality of care, quite the opposite.”

Digital transformation

In the coming period, Al Braiki observed, there will be an even stronger drive for a more connected healthcare and better centralisation of all healthcare data as well as the expanded scope of what that data is and where it comes from.

“At the same time, we all need to work to ensure there is better data standardisation, and interoperability between the different healthcare systems to enable easy sharing of information. We all knew these challenges existed, but they became very apparent and a stumbling stone during the pandemic,” said Al Braiki.

When asked about how Malaffi ensures data security, he said: “With a unified HIE platform such as ours, questions about cybersecurity and data integrity often arise. For us, patient care and patient privacy go hand in hand. The platform enables the safe and secure exchange of patient data between authorised users only. Certified and approved users from facilities, with legal contracts with Malaffi, can access a patient’s Malaffi file. All healthcare facilities have to abide by our strict privacy and security policies and comply with the relevant Abu Dhabi laws.”

Next steps

According to Al Braiki, the DOH is in talks with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to create a parallel system to centralise patient information across the entire country.

Work is also in progress to provide access to Malaffi to the patients through a patient portal and app, which will empower them to better engage in managing their health. Furthermore, as a digital centralised data platform, Malaffi is paving the way for the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies to improve further care coordination and public health management in Abu Dhabi.

“As we continue our journey to connect healthcare in Abu Dhabi, in parallel we are monitoring the utilisation of Malaffi, and working with the providers to make sure that it helps them deliver more efficient and higher-quality healthcare service to their patients. The value of the data in Malaffi increases with the onboarding of each provider and these efforts will increase in the future, as we will be constantly discovering new use cases and improving the platform based on the feedback of the community,” he concluded.

Collaboration and learning

Commenting on Malaffi’s participation at Omnia Health Live, Al Braiki added: “This event comes at a great time when we are now better able to reflect and adjust to the new conditions and reality. We all need to be able to use the momentum and the current focus on healthcare to further advance together through collaboration and learning and this event gives us a great platform to move in that direction.” 

Al Braiki will be participating in the ‘Fragmented Data: Pain points and lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis’ panel at Omnia Health Live on Wednesday, June 24 at 20:00 GST.

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