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The Dubai Hospital building. Dubai Health Authority has collaborated with many scientific and academic institutions for medical research. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A series of virtual forums was launched by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) this week, in line with the UAE’s Innovation Month (UAE Innovates 2021).

Awadh Al Ketbi, the DHA Director-General, emphasised on the importance of fostering and promoting a culture of innovation, particularly in the health sector. He added: “Leveraging focus on research, new technologies, innovation and data analytics has a huge potential to advance health care to benefit both health-care providers and patients.”

He noted the DHA will continue to focus on health-care innovation to further advance the health sector and provide patient-centred care. Senior DHA officials, including Dr Alawi Alsheikh Ali, Deputy Director-General, and Dr Mohammed Al Redha, Director of Project Management Office, Informatics and Smart Health, attended the virtual forum.

‘Doctor for every citizen’

Dr Alia Rafi, Acting Director of Specialised Programme Services Department at DHA’s Primary Health Care Sector, said telehealth is emerging to be a vital service globally in the new healthcare landscape. “The DHA quickly adapted its existing telemedicine platform and expanded it with agility to ensure we provide community members with a virtual health consultation service during COVID-19,” Dr Rafi said.

DHA’s Doctor for Every Citizen telemedicine service has provided 88,000 telemedicine consultations since January 2020. Out of the total consultations, 7,251 were medical consultations for COVID-19 patients and 13,437 were COVID-related consultations such as queries on vaccination eligibility, screening procedures etc.

The DHA launched the 24/7 Doctor for Every Citizen initiative in 2019. Given the importance of this service, especially for COVID-19 patients, the authority expanded the scope and capacity of this service. From the beginning of this service until now, the DHA has increased the number of doctors from ten to 52. The DHA increased the number of stations used for virtual consultations from six to 16. Doctors have also been trained in sign language to provide this service to people of determination.

DAWAEE initiative

Dr Ali Al Sayed, Director of the Pharmaceutical Services Department at the DHA, highlighted the success of the DAWAEE initiative for home delivery of medicines. DAWAEE is an initiative to home-deliver medications for DHA patients, senior citizens and for people of determination.

He said the DHA rapidly expanded the scope of this service and extended the free-of-cost home delivery service across the UAE during COVID- 19. The number of specialised mobile buses increased to 30 and DHA collaborated with Talabat and Aramex. The result was home delivery of 1.5 million medicines and 500,000 medical items across the UAE during a span of one year from December 2019 to December 2020.

Scientific papers

Dr Hamda Khansaheb, head of the Medical Research Department at the DHA’s Medical Education and Research Department, reported 78 scientific papers were completed, which were approved by the Scientific Research Ethics Committee last year.

The DHA collaborated with many scientific and academic institutions for medical research. DHA and Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences conducted a joint study on the diagnostic accuracy for COVID-19 saliva testing in children.

Based on the results of the study, DHA facilities adopted saliva testing for children aged three to 16 years. The research-driven and evidence-based move was possible because of the study. The DHA, MBRU and Al Jalila Foundation also carried out a study on the genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus. The authority likewise participated in the UAE University research on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health of health professionals.

DHA also participated in a global study conducted by experts at the University of Birmingham-led NIHR Global Research Health Unit on Global Surgery. The research examined the outcomes of patients undergoing surgery after contracting coronavirus.

Moreover, the DHA Medical Education Department also collaborated with Khalifa University and Sharjah University in the field of medical research.

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3D-printed models have been provided to surgeons at DHA hospitals, who request for patient-specific anatomical models, allowing them to conduct detailed pre-operative analysis. Image Credit: Supplied

3D printing for patients

Mai Al Dossari, Director of Health Innovation Centre at DHA highlighted the achievements of the DHA’s 3D-printing lab, which is located in the DHA Innovation Centre as serves as a point of care for DHA hospitals.

The lab provides 3D-printed models to surgeons at DHA hospitals who request for patient specific anatomical models allowing them to conduct detailed pre-operative analysis.

Al Dossari said, “During the pandemic, we used 3D-printing technology to print face shields with laser-cut plastic. Additionally, we used 3D printing to design flexible straps to make wearing a mask more comfortable.“We also used anti-microbial nano 3D material and refitted high-frequency touch-points across some health facilities as a preventive measure to further reduce the risk of disease transmission. Al Dossari continued: “There is a huge potential that technologies such as 3D printing offer and we are keen to explore those with an aim to better patient care.”