x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Statistical breakdown highlights anomalies in medical treatment

Recently released statistics by the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi will prompt officials to take a closer look at patient care.

ABU DHABI // Now that they have the numbers, they can hone in on the problems.

An analysis of healthcare trends in the emirate last year is prompting officials to take a closer look at diabetes prevention and excess prescriptions.

The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad) last week released its Health Statistics 2010 report, an improved and more detailed version of its annual data on population trends, public health highlights, investor developments and the performance of the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region.

The numbers show government facilities are more disciplined in prescribing antibiotics, which may mean that private facilities are not following guidelines.

The numbers also showed only 20 per cent of diabetics are in control of their condition, and that those diabetics with better insurance coverage have fewer diabetes-related problems.

Dr Philipp Vetter, head of strategy at Haad, said the results will demand a closer look at the reasons behind the statistics.

"We know that at least one in five adult nationals have diabetes, unfortunately, and we'd like that number to be lower," he said. "For those who already have diabetes, we need to know if their diabetes is well-controlled by the healthcare system, and we are able, for the first time, to have that knowledge.

"We noticed that women have better control of their diabetes on average than men, older people have better control than younger people, and what type of insurance the diabetic has also makes a difference," said Dr Vetter.

Of all women who are diabetic, 25 per cent are controlled. Only 18 per cent of male diabetics have the disease under control.

Nationals who have a Thiqa insurance card have better control of their diabetes, compared to those who have an enhanced insurance package.

Similarly, those with enhanced insurance have fewer problems than those with basic insurance.

This information, said Dr Vetter, is a starting point for discussions about the quality of health care.

"We don't want to jump to conclusions; we see the difference with regards to insurance plans. But we want to know what that is and understand the reasons so we can improve the situation."

Dr Fayath Faisal, an endocrinologist at Dar al Shifaa Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said patients with better insurance may be having their glucose levels tested more often, which provides a better indication of control.It is a "crucial test to have done regularly", he said.

"The test measures the blood glucose levels in a diabetic over the past three months and gives us an indication of how well controlled the patient is, so it is a crucial test to have done regularly," he said.

Dr Vetter said the statistical results will prompt Haad to start asking questions about whether all patients are getting the treatment they need.

Private hospitals, too, will be questioned about their prescribing habits.

More than a third of patients who presented in clinics with common cold symptoms were prescribed antibiotics; a fifth of those cases occurred in government hospitals or clinics, but two out of five occurred in private healthcare facilities.

"If someone has a cold, treating them with antibiotics is generally not effective and can lead to antibiotic resistance over time," Dr Vetter said.

The prescribing behaviour of doctors, and whether it is consistent with guidelines, will be examined.

Andrey Timoshkin, head of statistics and modelling at Haad, said: "The health statistics and the story they tell help us make regulatory decisions for the sector and track the progress in achieving reliable excellence in healthcare.

"The improved quality of data now allows us to start tracking performance of individual healthcare entities we regulate down to individual clinicians, and also to begin a discussion on setting quality targets."

hkhalaf@ thenational.ae