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Future of healthcare is here as Dubai pilots remote treatment

Asma Ali Zain/Dubai
Filed on November 4, 2017 | Last updated on November 4, 2017 at 06.38 pm
Telemedicine’s phase 1 allows doctors to be connected remotely.
Telemedicine's phase 1 allows doctors to be connected remotely.

Telemedicine is the future, the first stop in providing early, life-saving treatment.

A pilot project within the medical community in Dubai is paving the way for telemedicine or remote treatment in the emirate.

A regulatory framework for telemedicine has been completed and in the future, helpline numbers will be availble for people to make medical queries under the Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) ongoing roll-out of policies and plans across different specialities, under its strategy 2016-2021.

"Doctors will address their queries and direct them to either specialised consultation, advice whether they need to visit the ER and even book appointments for them, based on their condition," Dr Mohammad Al Redha, director of the DHA's Office of Organisational Transformation told Khaleej Times. Phase 1 allows doctors in Dubai to be connected remotely as part of a testing phase project. "We are still in the process of laying down regulations, so that telemedicine has a wide reach within and outside the country," he said.

At a recent meeting, Humaid Al Qutami, chairman of the Board and DHA director-general said: "The strategy has been chalked out after comprehensive research and analysis and is divided into three waves - immediate, medium and long-term. It has 15 programmes and over 100 initiatives under those, so that we can implement, track and monitor progress. He added that in line with the UAE Artificial Intelligence strategy, the DHA will further bolster its plans to incorporate AI and latest technologies in healthcare. Dr Al Redha also highlighted the initiatives, falling under the strategy's 15 programmes. Some of these are:

The care model innovation programme, encompassing:

3D printing: A strategy for 3D printing is already in place. In fact, the dental department of the authority has already begun using 3D printing technology. The DHA has also used this technology to carry out some complicated procedures such as heart surgeries. By the end of 2017, certain 3D services such as 3D-printed casts for fractures will be available at DHA health facilities.

New apps: The DHA implemented recently the Smart Mazad app, the blood donation app to add to its list of existing apps; more are in the pipeline.

Data and technology (medical informatics) programme:

DHA-wide patient medical record project: The DHA's electronic patient medical record project known as Salama is on track and will be implemented across all DHA, moving to a paperless system by end 2017.

Currently, the project is in phase 3. The DHA's IT department has unified about 1.4 million records and more than 112 million transactions have passed through this system during the first phase which took place in April.

From then until now, 115,181 new electronic medical records were created in the system and approximately an additional 30 million transactions have been migrated in order to support the phase two rollout.

This will ensure electronic patient medical records are available across DHA health facilities. Additionally, it will help provide patients access to their medical records through a patient portal. Healthcare providers will receive consolidated and integrated patient information, giving them a rapid, complete overview of the patient's condition. Moreover, allergy warnings will be displayed on the screen, which directly results in minimising any medication errors.

Prevention & healthy lifestyle programme:

School Health Policy and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) policy.

Genetic mapping and social prescribing: DHA researchers are working on a project to understand how genetics play a role in disease manifestation. After completion, they will incorporate the results and conclusions into the complete health spectrum, from prevention strategies to primary care, extended care and lifestyle modification.

Public Health and Safety programme:

The programme focusses on how to create healthy indoor and outdoor environments. This includes occupational health and safety as well as home health and safety. Preventative strategies and epidemiological studies are on track.

Primary care programme:

Focus on urgent-care model across primary healthcare centres: After the successful implementation of 24 hour urgent care facilities in DHA's Al Barsha and Nad Al Hamar health centres, the DHA is working on initiatives to see how it can be implemented across other primary healthcare centres.

Dental care: Child Health Dental sessions were expanded to 5,000 sessions per year in 2016. The team is working on a complete continuum of care programme, which includes prevention and oral hygiene strategy in schools, including prevention and screening programmes.

Mental and behavioural disorders: The DHA is working on a complete mental health strategy.

Medical tourism programme

The medical tourism insurance, patient protection plan and other such measures have been implemented in 2016 to ensure patient safety and further bolster the Dubai Medical Tourism initiative.

Chronic disease management programme

Focus on speciality centres: A new DHA run dialysis specialty centre will be built in Al Barsha

Workforce & medical education programme

The DHA is working on developing medical educational programmes for nationals.

Insurance and health financing programme

Insurance pricing models and fraud detection programmes are in the pipeline to strengthen the overall functioning of the health sector.

KT Nano Edit 

Future of medicine

Telemedicine is the future, the first stop in providing early, life-saving treatment. And it's making a start here. This could have a bearing on costs, which would obviously come down. Data will be critical and patients will get the best treatment, swiftly. Privacy issues remain a concern though and it's important that rules are in place to ensure patients' private lives remain private.   


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