Abu Dhabi: A system of ranking medical facilities in the emirate of Abu Dhabi based on criteria such as hygiene level, infection control and quality of care has been developed by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and is now being upgraded, a senior health official revealed in the capital on Sunday.

Whether these rankings will be revealed to the public, and which aspects will be published, are however still under discussion, said Dr Sedra Al Mansouri, acting director of health system compliance at the HAAD.

“The first edition of the rankings, which also identified certain gaps in health care, was published among hospitals earlier this year. While medical facilities now work to fix these areas of concern, the HAAD is studying whether or not these rankings will be beneficial if revealed to the public,” Dr Sedra told Gulf News.

“If a decision is eventually made to publish these results, the HAAD will reveal information that patients have a right to know and which will help them make more informed decisions about their health-care choices,” she added. She was speaking at a forum in the capital that saw health experts discuss common patient safety concerns in the Middle East.

According to Dr Sedra, 19 of the initial 37 criteria used to rate hospitals by the HAAD focussed on patient safety.

In the second edition of the rankings, an additional 92 criteria of a total of 540 mostly relate to patient safety issues at medical facilities.

“The HAAD also collects regular reports on any adverse reactions to medicines, or medication errors such as wrongful dosages. In fact, since the online reporting system was launched in June 2008, 2,308 reports have been recorded, including 1,304 reports of adverse reactions to medicines and 1,004 reports of medication errors. Many of these reports refer to antibiotic reactions,” she said.

At the same time, public hospitals in the emirate of Abu Dhabi that are managed by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), also adhere to a system of anonymous reporting of medical incidents.

Despite such initiatives by the HAAD and other medical regulators across the Gulf, patient safety remains a matter of concern, experts said at the forum.

“Medication errors continue to increase each year. And most patients in the GCC countries still do not provide accurate information about their symptoms and treatment compliance to their physicians,” said Dr Tawfiq Khoja, director general of the executive board of the GCC Health Ministers’ Council.

“In addition, not enough data is being collected to track how medical facilities perform each year, and doing this is very important in assuring improvements in patient safety,” he said.

Dr Khoja also said a culture needs to be created wherein patients feel empowered to report correct details to their doctors, and feel free to ask for information about the treatment they are about to receive.

According to Dr Sedra, physicians need to build trust among their patients as well. “This includes telling a patient, even if the wrong medicine was prescribed, and furnishing them with enough information about the alternative treatments available,” she said.

The HAAD official also advised residents to seek second opinions about prescribed treatment courses. “Instead of always blaming physicians in case of wrongful treatment, patients must check for all possible treatment options and then make the decision about which course to pursue. This will improve patient safety and treatment outcomes,” she added.