ABU DHABI // An electronic system designed to reduce the wait for patients to receive pharmacy medication is to be tested in the capital.
Under the pilot scheme, which starts tomorrow at a health clinic operated by Abu Dhabi's Health Services Company, Seha, a request will be automatically sent to insurance companies seeking authorisation for medication as the pharmacist processes an order.
An answer on whether the drugs are covered or not should be available within "minutes" rather than hours, which can be the case now.
At present, a doctor's order for medication is sent electronically to the pharmacist who then faxes a copy to the insurance company, which is followed up with a phone call.
"It takes time at the moment and it's a manual process for the pharmacist. Some times it can be a long time," said Donna McCormick, the corporate clinical applications director at Seha. "We have had it be up to 24 hours for authorisation."
The pilot will run at Al Nahda Primary Health Centre and only involve patients with a basic insurance plan.
The authorisation request would be automatically generated through the Malaffi records programme - an electronic system under which all patients at Seha's hospitals and clinics have their own file.
"It automates the whole process, there's no faxing, there are no phone calls, it happens electronically and the intent would be to obviously speed up the process and have an electronic reason in the patient's record," said Ms McCormick.
"If that medication was approved, how much was approved? And, if it was rejected, why? It keeps the patient's file up to date as well.
"We are hoping it reduces the time to minutes. According to what the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) and insurance companies are saying it could be up to 60 minutes but we are hoping it is less."
The second phase of the project would begin in about 12 months with another pilot to speed up medication requests to insurance companies by them coming directly from doctors.
"We are hoping it happens very, very quickly - like minutes," said Ms McCormick. "The physician can then talk to the patient and say to the patient 'that's not covered, let's try this other medication'.
"At the moment this only applies to patients with basic insurance.".
Launched in 2007, Malaffi merged all of a patient's medical information into one digital file, which helped reduce medication errors, increased a physician's access to clinical information and eliminated redundant tests.
Mr Bader Bader Al Qubaisi, the corporate infrastructure and technology manager at Seha, said one of the most recent achievements made as a result of the application of Malaffi was its integration with Haad's sick leave reporting system.
Over the past four months about 135,000 eSick submissions have been entered via Malaffi, he said.
"Other advantages include converting manually written outpatient prescriptions to ePrescriptions," said Mr Al Qubaisi.
"This has had considerable effect by reducing errors in the dispensing of medicines from pharmacies. Errors often used to occur as a result of obscure or unclear handwriting."
Five Seha hospitals have achieved level six certification in the electronic medical records adoption model of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society - an internationally recognised means of evaluating the way electronic medical records are implemented in hospitals.
This certification puts them among the highest ranking hospitals when compared to the United States and the Asia-Pacific region, which use similar models.