x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Abu Dhabi health system learns to use patient data

The emirate's healthcare experts tell a global forum they are moving forward with the use of statistics.

Zaid Al Siksek, CEO of Health Authority Abu Dhabi, said the availability of data was the most important aspect of healthcare reform in the emirate.
Andrew Henderson / The National
Zaid Al Siksek, CEO of Health Authority Abu Dhabi, said the availability of data was the most important aspect of healthcare reform in the emirate. Andrew Henderson / The National

ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi healthcare experts told an international forum yesterday how they had initiated a plan of data collection from patients and clinicians that has enabled the emirate to focus on improving quality of care.

On the first day of the three-day inaugural World Health Care Congress Middle East at the Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi yesterday, Dr Philipp Vetter, the head of strategy at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), announced that the authority had begun routinely collecting data on the quality of care provided to patients, as well as on the clinicians who provided that care.

This data, said Dr Vetter, would provide detailed clinical indicators that would be shared with the UAE's healthcare community for the first time, enabling them to find ways of improving the delivery of health care in the emirate.

Zaid al Siksek, the chief executive of HAAD, said that the most important aspect of the healthcare reform process in Abu Dhabi had been the transparency that came with accessibility to data.

"If we don't have the data or the capability to understand it, it's almost impossible to build and create change," he said.

No answers could be found for questions such as what specialities are needed in the emirate, how many more hospital beds have to be provided, what chronic diseases are affecting the average population, how many doctors need to be hired, and so on, when no data was collected, he said.

With information, however, "we are able to validate spending in specific areas, create new facilities, push for subsidies, talk about pharmaceutical needs, and where we are lacking in research and development," he said. "The ability to have and use that information is a key ingredient to any modern, successful health system out there."

The data will be collected routinely from insurance claims submitted by healthcare providers, while protecting individual patient confidentiality.

The information on these claims will show whether the care provided is appropriate, whether clinical guidelines are being followed, whether the correct tests had been ordered, and whether the results of those tests are indicative of a bigger problem and so on.

Tammie Lawrie, a senior analyst at HAAD, said this was a starting point to track how things had been going so far, until a bigger picture could be drawn.

"This is a way for us to look at the quality of care being delivered and make this information available to providers as a tool for them to improve," she said.

After only 10 months into the initiative, it was too early yet to judge healthcare quality based on the data, said Dr Vetter. However, it would invite the right discussions.

For example, diabetes indicators have shown that only 59 per cent of patients who have diagnosed diabetes have had their HbA1c levels checked in the past 10 months, which is one way to check how well the diabetes is controlled.

Further examination of data has found that women and older patients in particular had more access to health care and had better control of their diabetes than their younger, male counterparts.

After pinpointing those trends, the challenge is to determine why such trends are in place.

Ms Lawrie said the more data collected, the more indicators would be identified.

"With regards to diabetes, we check to see, have patients had a recent lipid profile test? A recent eye function test? If not, why not?"

Dr Vetter said that this routine data collection was a best practice of health care in Abu Dhabi that could be shared on an international forum such as the World Health Care Congress Middle East, where 500 leaders and decision makers in health from more than 20 countries had gathered to discuss innovations in health care.

"We have an obligation to begin using this data that we've collected to improve," said Dr Vetter.