Abu Dhabi

Patients in Abu Dhabi can now expect to provide feedback about their experience to officials, thanks to random inspections during routine outpatient visits to clinics and hospitals.

Healthcare inspectors will be conducting interviews or focus group sessions with patients as part of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health’s latest efforts to boost overall healthcare quality.

“We’ve had the Jawda quality measurement system in place since 2014, and our aim now is to place patients at the centre. We want to know if they are satisfied with the wait time, their interactions with doctors and the facilities they visit,” Dr Asma Al Mannaei, director of healthcare quality at the DoH, told Gulf News on Monday. The official was speaking on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Healthcare Quality Summit.

Regular interviews

The DoH has already randomly interviewed 77 patients over a three-month period, and aims to reach out to many more patients in the coming year.

“The interviews present an opportunity to hear from patients, and will continue to be carried out on a regular basis. So far, we’ve been happy to note that most patients have been satisfied with their health facility encounters, and we’ve also marked a few areas for improvement,” Dr Al Mannaei said.

More time with doctors

One of the focus areas is the time allocated for patient-doctor interactions.

“Many patients said they wanted more one-on-one time with physicians, and we have taken this into account. While we cannot designate a set amount of time for such interactions, our aim will remain to ensure that patients are satisfied with the time they get and that they feel properly cared for,” the official explained.

According to Dr Al Mannaei, this will require a change from the parental culture towards patients to a more humanitarian approach.

“We know now where the problem lies,” she added.

Performance rankings

Since the implementation of Jawda, Abu Dhabi’s health system has made strides in improving quality, especially in the reduction of wait times and patient outcomes. Statistics presented at the Summit showed that 97 per cent of clinics and hospitals now meet targets for patient waiting times, compared to about 80 per cent in 2015.

Annual patient satisfaction surveys have also indicated a 4.9 per cent improvement in overall patient satisfaction.

The DoH now has an internal ranking of healthcare facilities based on their performance, but these have not been announced publicly.

“Many patients still don’t know about the metrics of healthcare quality, and so we are working on a campaign to create awareness about the things they should be paying attention to when making a judgement. For example, has the physician washed his hands before checking you? Do you understand how to adhere to the prescribed treatment after a consultation?”

Once this understanding is established, the DoH plans to publish the facility rankings.

“We are also working on rolling out performance rankings by medical subspecialty within the next year,” Dr Al Mannaei said.