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Patients in Abu Dhabi can contact their doctors 24/7 soon

Public clinics will soon allow patients email access to physicians as part of a patient-centred care model

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Patients will soon be able to contact their physicians at Abu Dhabi’s public clinics 24 hours a day, a senior medical official said in the capital on Thursday.

Such close communication with doctors via email will allow patients to obtain laboratory reports, request appointments and even check on correct medication use, Dr Omar Al Jaberi, chief medical officer at Ambulatory Healthcare Services (AHS), told Gulf News.

“The initiative, for which we are currently awaiting final approval, is part of a larger programme to provide patient-centred care, the Patient Centred Medical Home (PCMH) programme. The PCMH has been implemented across all clinics for nearly two years. During its pilot phase at three clinics, it led to a 20 per cent improvement on average in the management of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and asthma at the three clinics,” Dr Al Jaberi said.

“So now we are working to improve patient-physician trust, allow for care continuity and in essence, improve public health,” he added.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the second Abu Dhabi Ambulatory Healthcare International Congress, which kicked off here on Thursday. More than 2,000 medical professionals are expected to attend the three-day conference to discuss advances and challenges in primary care.

The congress is being organised by the AHS, which manages public clinics in the emirate and is a part of the Abu Dhabi Healthcare Services Company (Seha), public health-care provider.

The AHS currently operates 38 clinics, as well as 11 disease prevention and screening centres.

One of the key features of the PCMH initiative is providing continuity of care through a system where each patient is regularly followed up by a single primary care physician.

“What this means is that the physician is fully up to date with the patient’s condition, and is able to even alert her when preventive screenings, like mammograms or pap smears, become due. It also improves patient-physician trust, which, in turn, has improved compliance with treatment requirements,” said Dr Latifa Al Kitbi, chairperson of academic affairs at the AHS.

Since the implementation of PCMH, Dr Al Jaberi said that clinical outcomes had improved by about 70 per cent.

“What has really helped patients is that their primary care physicians work with a multidisciplinary team to evaluate overall well-being,” he said.

For example, if a patient experiences a stomach ache, the primary care physician looks into a variety of possible causes for it, including indigestion, heart disease and muscle health. In contrast, a patient might only get an antacid if they directly visit the gastroenterologist, which may not treat the underlying cause of the ache.

“We see a smaller proportion of patients visiting the emergency department now, and breast and cervical cancer screening uptake has also improved,” Dr Al Jaberi said.