Around one in 20 patients is exposed to preventable harm in medical care, according to a report titled, ‘Prevalence, severity, and nature of preventable patient harm across medical care settings: systematic review and meta-analysis’, while 12 per cent of preventable patient harm is either severe or leads to death. The same review found that 25 per cent of preventable harm in medical care was related to medication. Beyond the human cost of healthcare medication errors, the World Health Organisation estimates the global cost to be US$42 billion annually.
Obviously, safety is the top priority in healthcare and one patient harmed from a medical error is one too many, but healthcare faces a labour shortage and an ageing workforce among physicians. Hospitals around the world recognise that their workers are experiencing fatigue and burnout.
With fewer nurses and other healthcare workers in general, those remaining are responsible for more patients in a growing and ageing population that could raise the risk of medical errors and potential harm to patients. In the UAE and across the globe, the goal should be to improve patient outcomes and prevent errors that should never happen (commonly known as ‘never events’).
Technology moves the quality of patient care forward
To help improve patient outcomes, reduce preventable errors, strengthen decision support and provide stronger healthcare protocols, hospitals will need to continue leveraging technology. Ninety-five per cent of IT decision-makers surveyed in the Zebra Global Healthcare Vision Study said they expect to increase spending in healthcare IT and clinical mobility, with eight out of 10 emphasising improvements gained in reducing preventable medical errors.
Thomas Duparque, Healthcare Manager EMEA at Zebra Technologies.
More than half of the respondents in the study agreed that technology could help improve medication tracking, patient throughput and nursing workflows. Additionally, eight in 10 said that patient care would also improve if nurses, clinicians and non-clinical workers had collaboration tools and healthcare applications.
But technology can also be implemented beyond the bedside or exam room and put the control right into patients’ hands digitally, while removing burdens from clinicians and providing better outcomes for everyone. For example, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) run the ‘Doctor for Every Citizen’ service, giving people access to free consultations through voice and video calls, 24/7. The service covers initial consultation and follow-ups with DHA-certified physicians. The physician can request laboratory and radiology tests and issue electronic prescriptions.
The Department of Health (DOH) Abu Dhabi launched the DOH RemoteCare app that allows people to access healthcare in their own homes, without visiting a hospital or clinic physically. The smartphone app has tools for examining symptoms, diagnosing non-emergency cases, booking appointments and attending teleconsultations with doctors via voice, video calls, or text messages.
Will UAE healthcare go digital?
The UAE is ready and open to adopting digital technology in healthcare. According to a 2022 McKinsey survey, the UAE could use digital health solutions to benefit patients and improve outcomes. After all, smartphone penetration rates in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are among the world’s highest, estimated at 93 per cent, says the same report. Why not expand digitised services to healthcare?
McKinsey’s findings revealed high levels of interest and awareness among UAE respondents in digital healthcare technologies. These solutions could benefit patient outcomes from chronic disease management to diagnostics and preventative care. McKinsey estimates the digital health market in the UAE (combined with the KSA) could hit US$4 billion by 2026.
While most consumers in the UAE have never used digital health applications, affinity is high among users of existing solutions, predominantly for their convenience and time savings, says McKinsey. The goal of digital health services in the Middle East is to improve patient outcomes by developing digital health capabilities that align with consumer needs and preferences. Ideally, digital health apps should be able to integrate and/or share data directly with a user’s doctor, bringing a patient’s digital healthcare full circle.
Similarly, enterprise-grade mobile devices like handheld computers and healthcare tablets can offer doctors and nurses the visibility and connectedness they need to ensure seamless, real-time patient care while avoiding the pitfalls of using consumer devices in healthcare settings.
Expect more tech
While we are entering a new era of healthcare technology, both in the hands of doctors and nurses in healthcare settings and on consumers’ smartphones, we are also experiencing new tech expectations from patients. In the age of smartphones and smart homes, it is not surprising that consumers would also expect smart healthcare and smart Hospital.
Most clinicians (83 per cent) and healthcare decision-makers (88 per cent) in Zebra’s study say that patients expect increased visibility in their treatment plans and more control over their care (and this is precisely where digital healthcare fits in).
Technology will only continue to benefit patient care and outcomes in healthcare. Transformational tech trends that enable better remote care are leading the way from telehealth to patient tracking devices and real-time health platforms. And the majority of healthcare clinicians and decision-makers agree the quality of patient care would improve if nurses, clinicians and non-clinician support all had access to mobility and healthcare applications.
It is no longer a question of ‘if’ technology will continue to positively impact healthcare outcomes in the UAE and across the globe — the expectation is more technology and faster.
References available on request.
Thomas Duparque is the Healthcare Manager EMEA at Zebra Technologies.This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today. Back to Technology