ABU DHABI // The Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad) and Seha, the health services company, have reported great progress this year in their bid to make health care in the emirate among the best in the world.
Next year, a wealth of statistics will be at Haad's disposal after the introduction this year of several vital initiatives.
Perhaps the most important is the cancer registry, which started collecting data in October.
All Haad-licensed healthcare facilities are now required to report new cancer cases through an online system, which will also monitor screenings and patient outcomes.
From the tracking of sick notes, a move that will allow the authority to reduce fraud, to the Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance Report - the first study of its kind to be carried out in a Gulf nation - Abu Dhabi's healthcare system will provide guidance not only to the rest of the country, but to neighbouring nations.
Last year, workers in the emirate requested 55,000 short and long-term sick notes. The collection of the data was a first for the emirate.
In addition, as part of the initiative all Haad hospitals were required to introduce an electronic sick-leave attestation system in March.
A more thorough antibiotic resistance study will be carried out during the first quarter of next year and will provide Haad with further information about how bacteria develops resistance, as well as how to tackle the problem.
This year has produced a lot of health-care firsts - including the first trauma registry. The Injury and Poisoning Notification System will come into full effect next month. It will provide doctors with thorough data on such cases, something that was previously unavailable.
Another first is a grading system, Jawda, that allows the public to see which pharmacies are the best and which have committed infractions.
Haad also continues to lead the way with its mandatory health insurance scheme, which is just over six years old and covers 98 per cent of the population.
Among other improvements this year, the authority has reduced the time it takes to respond to a health insurance complaint.
"In 2012, the reduction of the complaint resolution time frame played an important role in setting a higher target in customer satisfaction," according to a Haad report.
It said that "66 per cent of received complaints were solved in 12 working days".
About 470 health insurance complaints were received this year. As the system continues to evolve, the rest of the country awaits a mandatory insurance scheme to be introduced.
In Dubai, the long-awaited health insurance law, originally scheduled for 2009, could finally be introduced next year. Officials from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) last year said the new legislation was part of a two-year plan for improving health care in the emirate.
Although officials did not specify when the law would be introduced, they said the draft was in the final stages of approval by the Dubai Executive Council.
"Once implemented, every employer will have to buy health insurance for his employees, which will cover both private and public hospitals in the emirate," said Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, the director of health funding at DHA.
"The DHA will play a major regulatory role to ensure that the cost of medical services and insurance policies remain affordable."
Dr Al Yousuf said the scheme was designed to provide adequate coverage without being a burden on employers, and with unique measures to prevent abuse or restriction of access.
The regulatory framework, which Dr Al Yousef said would be rolled out within the next few months,
Every health insurance claim will be made electronically. This will make it easier to thoroughly analyse claims, something new for the emirate, which will help to reduce fraud and improve services.
"This means that all insurance companies will be registered by the authority and that the authority will take on an inspectional role to ensure all providers are following protocols to provide best insurance services to their customers," said Dr Al Yousef.
"This will look at behaviour patterns and ensure they are positive, not abusive, and all leading towards sustainable health insurance in the emirate."
The system will also make it easier for people to compare facilities, allowing them to make the best choice for their care, he added.
There are about one million people with health insurance in Dubai, mostly white-collar workers. Figures from first phase of the Dubai Household Health Survey in 2010 showed that three-quarters of Indians, other Asians and Arab expatriates were not covered by health insurance.