The Neuro Spinal Hospital Dubai has spent Dh40 million on enhancing medical quality and patient safety over the past five years partly through investment into new technology Image Credit: Supplied

Connected through smartphones, tablets and wearables, today’s health-care consumer has come a long way with modern technology allowing non-traditional tools to record vital signs such as the heart beat.

As competition heats up and new players enter the sector, the patient experience will be a key differentiator in how health-care facilities are perceived. As a result, to compete health-care organisations are looking at new ways of engaging patients and are betting on the fact that health IT will be a game changer.

Kapil Bhatia, Principal at Boston Consulting Group, the management consultancy, says "Health care has only just begun to tap into the power of digital technologies to improve services. Today’s technology readily enables the analyses of quantitative and outcomes-based data across large population groups. It allows online and video consultations, provides intelligent self-diagnosis and self-management tools, and an array of other innovations that could improve health-care cost, quality and access."

A key trend is the use of interactive patient care technology that uses two-way exchange of real-time information to engage patients and provide them with better services and information.

Patients can send feedback and access information and educational materials that helps support them in their care. In turn, health-care practitioners can push personalised content to patients according to their condition, recovery process and hospital policies, and patients can deliver real-time feedback at the touch of a button.

It’s happening here

Investment in the patient experience can take several forms — from training of clinical staff, investing in high-end equipment to potentially provide better care to investing in new facilities and the latest gadgets. Bhatia says: "GCC countries are in particular witnessing an expansion in hospital projects. The value of the top ten hospital projects in the pipeline currently stands at more than $15 billion (about Dh55 billion)."

As the region’s health-care delivery system evolves rapidly, it presents the perfect opportunity for increasing the digitalisation of health-care communications and to leverage mobile technologies.

Ala Attari is CEO of Medcare Hospital. He says: "The entire patient experience begins from the minute they walk through the door or from the time they call the hospital. Technology has come vastly into the picture now.

"We are looking at new software for Medcare to track patients’ experience and to collect data. We are using technology to get more in-depth analysis, which would help us in ensuring both safety and customer experience."

Over the next two years, Medcare plans to revamp everything and have a dedicated software to ensure more efficiency. Attari adds: "We will be implementing a new software that will go live later this year. It will give us more information about every patient from the hospital’s information system. This will be highly detailed and entail many capacities to understand a patient’s history and ensure the best possible response or solution."

Millions invested

Health IT is big business, and over the past five years the Neuro Spinal Hospital Dubai has invested Dh40 million in enhancing medical quality and patient safety, says Dr Matthias Honl, Head of the hospital’s Orthopaedic Department. "We are the only hospital in the region that owns an entire set of different intraoperative imaging technologies, such as computer navigation, intraoperative MRI, portable intraoperative CT and 3D intraoperative imaging. Furthermore, our neurophysiological department monitors nerve functions during surgeries in order to prevent intraoperative damage," he says.

The Mediclinic Group, on the other hand, has an integrated hospital information system that enables easy access to patient information across the group, and only one file per patient exists.

Technology also improves the patient experience in other, softer ways. Marianne Gerstner, Group Patient Safety and Risk Officer, Mediclinic Middle East, says: "Patients have access to free Wi-Fi as well as an entertainment system that includes a wide variety of both English and Arabic movies. At some facilities, children have access to console games and play areas.

"The integrated hospital information system makes accessing a patient’s records easy. For example, doctors practising at Mediclinic Arabian Ranches can see what a doctor at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital prescribed previously," she adds.