Fostering Innovation: Interview with HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General, DHA

In an exclusive interview with Arab Health Magazine, HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General, Dubai Health Authority (DHA), discusses a number of key factors that are playing a crucial role in enhancing the emirate’s healthcare system, right from the mandatory health insurance scheme, the use of AI and 3D printing for complex surgeries to the implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) across all health facilities. Excerpts from the interview.

What are some of the key achievements of the DHA over the past few years?
I think the roll out and uptake of the mandatory health insurance scheme in Dubai is certainly one of our most important achievements in the last few years. This is a major milestone in ensuring access to healthcare. Today over 99 per cent of the population has access to essential health services. In addition, plans are underway to extend the health insurance coverage to include visitors to Dubai. The mandatory insurance coverage has been a direct source of patient happiness and we will continue to enhance the system.

We have also achieved a big leap in the number of health facilities that are internationally accredited. Currently, 96 per cent of hospitals in Dubai have completed their international accreditation, which is a significant jump from 80 per cent in 2015.

The number of physicians per 10,000 of the population has reached 33 exceeding the national level (27) and approaching the level achieved by Sweden (39).

HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General, DHA

We also completed the Salama project within 21 months of its launch in February 2016. Salama is a DHA-wide project that aims to provide patients and doctors access to medical records through a patient portal and ensures that electronic patient medical record (EMR) is available across all DHA health facilities. More than 1.4 million patient medical records and more than 112 million transactions have been transferred to the Salama system. With the implementation of EMR across DHA hospitals and health centres, we are strongly moving ahead with our aim to create a paperless health system.

DHA hospitals achieved the Electronic Medical Records Adoption Model (EMRAM) score of 6 and our primary healthcare centres are rated as per Ambulatory EMRAM. EMRAM is accepted today worldwide as an international benchmark to stage hospital’s electronic efforts. The model uses a 0-7 stage scale to rate hospitals based on the extent to which they have adopted a paperless, digital system. Stage 7 means the hospital is a fully digital one with reference to medical records.

In pursuit of achieving the Dubai Smart Government vision, we have launched several health apps that will benefit the public. We also forayed into the use of technologies such as AI and 3D printing and successfully used 3D printing for complex surgeries as well as implemented it on a wide scale across our dental centres.

We developed a comprehensive 2016-2021 health strategy, that has 96 initiatives and is divided into short (quick wins), medium and long-term initiatives and has tangible goals so that we can achieve concrete results and sustain the momentum of growth to realise DHA’s vision “Towards a Healthy and Happier Community”. We launched several important policies that will directly benefit the public health system.

We launched the School Health Policy and the Hasana unified immunisation system, which will provide access to unified immunisation records at any facility and will ensure availability of relevant data. It will also enable the DHA to lay the foundation for the Population Health Management System, which will be robust enough to manage and contain the spread of communicable diseases. All private schools in Dubai will now use the Hasana system. Additionally, we launched the mental health strategy for the emirate, the investment strategy and our teams are working on launching strategies for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Communicable Diseases (CDs) and Health Tourism.

What are some of the future projects?

Some of the projects we are working on include developing an oncology and cardiovascular centre of excellence, establishment of the innovation centre, the Rashid Medical Complex Project and a skin bank.The bank will be established before the end of 2019. It will be the first-of-its-kind in the Middle East and will provide a ready source of clinically safe human donor skin to treat severe burns and other cases where donor skin is needed to provide patients with a new lease of life. The bank will follow stringent international protocols and the DHA has already sought and obtained approval from the Islamic Affairs Department on the subject as per Sharia rules and regulations.

The DHA is planning to implement the Rashid Medical Complex project in phases. The complex will be built on 600,000 square metre space next to Rashid Hospital. It will be equipped with the latest technology and will provide a unique treatment experience for patients.

The Rashid Medical Complex will include a 10-floor hospital that will be home to 1,000 beds. The complex will include a five-floor Centre for outpatient clinics and 100 medical clinics. It will also have a six-floor building for medical clinics in addition to four specialised Centres (Cardiology, Neurology, Trauma and Emergency Medicine), Labs, a Rehabilitation Centre that can cater to 320 beds as well as Centres for Sport Injuries and two centres for research and conferences.

DHA recently launched the investment strategy for the health sector, can you tell us more about it.

I believe an efficient way to foster and promote health investment is to have a dedicated health investment promotion agency; several countries have successfully followed that model. At the DHA, we recently formed a specialised health investment and public private partnership (PPP) department. One of the initiatives of the department was the introduction of a detailed and in-depth health investment strategy, which was rolled out after extensive consultation and feedback with the private health sector.

The strategy will help foster and promote health investment in areas where there is a lack of services or where there are opportunities for growth. Investors will have easy access to information, support and guidance, at the same time; the investments will be need-based and thus will directly improve the existing landscape of the health sector in the Emirate. We will work on several PPP models to establish COE’s in Dubai. In November last year, we begun the tendering process for the establishment of a state-of-the-art cardiac centre.

The centre will follow the public-private partnership (PPP) model. DHA has appointed a team of advisors, led by PricewaterhouseCoopers and supported by Mott MacDonald as the technical adviser and Allen&Overy as the legal and transaction adviser, to help select a suitably qualified private-sector partner.

The Cardiac Centre of Excellence (CCoE) will be a 110-120-bed facility covering cardiac emergency and inpatient and outpatient services. The centre will be located in the Rashid Medical Complex with easy access to and from the Rashid Medical Complex Emergency and Trauma Centre.

We can expect other projects that will follow a PPP model as well. We believe the private sector is our partner and together we can enhance the health sector and provide the highest quality of medical services to the community and medical tourists alike.

How important is health regulation and what are some of the advances in the regulatory framework?

Regulation plays a pivotal role in the healthcare industry. Healthcare regulations and standards are necessary to provide safe and high-quality healthcare to every individual who accesses the system.

The DHA is continuously developing as well as updating its regulatory systems to provide healthcare professionals and facilities with convenient licensing processes. We will implement the Dubai Healthcare Professionals Registry to provide healthcare facilities and investors with detailed information about medical professionals in the Emirate.

The registry will include details about all medical professionals including doctors, nurses, paramedics, radiologists etc. Dubai has seen a robust growth in the number of medical professionals over the years. In 2009, there were 14,677 medical professionals in the Emirate, as of October 2018; there are approximately 38,000 medical professionals in Dubai. The registry has many benefits especially for professionals who no longer need to reapply if they leave the Emirate and work abroad.

We will also implement easier medical regulation processes in line with international best practices. The total number of health professional license increased by 15 per cent and number of licensed facilities increased by about 27 per cent. We are working on revamping the health governance structure, which will result in increased accountability of hospitals and further improve patient safety and experience.

What role will innovation and smart technologies play in the development of Dubai’s healthcare sector?

Innovation and smart technologies play an important role in our overall strategy. We have developed a Care Innovation Model as part of the DHA strategy, as we are keen to create an environment that is conducive to foster innovation and drive efficiency. Our aim is to promote an atmosphere that is conducive to innovation, not just for medical treatment but also in technology, healthcare management, pharmaceuticals, medical devices etc., so that all aspects of the health sector develop and thrive. Innovation cannot take place in isolation and thrives on collaboration; we are keen to work with innovators, healthcare entities, scientists and researchers so that we improve healthcare outcomes and focus on improved patient care and experience.

We are in the process of building an innovation centre and we are working with the private sector to establish the most suitable model to foster this concept. Innovation and technology go hand-in-hand. We are keen to harness the latest technologies in healthcare.

In terms of 3D printing, we have successfully deployed 3D technology across our dental services department. We have carried out complicated surgeries using this technology. The DHA also worked with the private sector on 3D-printed artificial legs that was used to provide amputees with a new lease to life. An important benefit of 3D printing is the cost-effectiveness of the technology, which makes it affordable across a wide spectrum of patients who need it and that is the scale we are looking at so that we can use technology to reach out to the maximum number of people.

In AI, we are working closely with world-class companies that have implemented it in various fields to see how we can utilise these services in the healthcare landscape of Dubai. The DHA’s team at Dubai Future Accelerators’ initiative is currently in its fifth cycle and is working with innovative firms in the field of healthcare.

As part of the fifth cycle, we are working with four international firms that will present proofs of concepts and pilot projects at DHA hospitals to see how their technology can be incorporated in Dubai. The technologies that we are accessing include Proximie, a cloud-based augmented reality platform that allows doctors to virtually transport themselves into any operating room or clinic to collaborate, guide and support surgeons and healthcare professionals.

We are also carrying out PoC’s for a portable and connected device developed by Scanbo that can capture multiple vitals from the human body and transfer data to mobile app using Bluetooth.

Dubai Health Investment Guide

DHA’s Dubai Health Investment Guide 2018 provides investors and private-sector health facilities with information on investment priorities, gaps in health provision and key developments in the health sector. The guide is available online on www.dha.gov.ae.