Covid-19 hasn’t been easy on any industry, but for the healthcare sector it’s been doubly hard grappling with the repercussions of being at the centre of a novel pandemic while continuing to provide services to other patients. Regulatory authorities and healthcare providers around the world had to think on their feet and come up with solutions to ensure business continuity and meet people’s needs.
GN Focus sits down with Andre Daoud, Group CEO of Medcare, one of the leading hospital chains in the UAE that is part of the Aster DM Healthcare Group and runs four multispecialty and specialised hospitals and 16 medical centres in Dubai and Sharjah. He tells us how Covid-19 has changed the way healthcare is delivered at his facilities.
Can you tell us how the pandemic has transformed healthcare delivery at Medcare?
As we look back on 2020, we realise that it was a turning point in not only how healthcare was delivered but also how people interacted with healthcare systems. Coronavirus restrictions forced people to rely more and more on technology for work, education and other essential services including access to healthcare and daily necessities.
Within a few weeks, patients who were only comfortable with face-to-face diagnosis and treatment found themselves using apps, online tools and video conference to receive healthcare. Clinicians with a hands-on approach had to adopt remote working practically overnight, with only a small minority of patients coming in for in-person consultations. In light of the ground reality, everybody understood what’s necessary and was swift in adapting to the new method of delivery.
Connected care is becoming a part of the delivery model around the world. What’s Medcare doing in this area?
Connected healthcare and digital health enhance patients’ access to care, engagement and empowerment. Their benefits go beyond logistics and improve the way patients interact with and perceive healthcare. When patients manage their health using digital platforms and tools, it not only empowers them but is also more effective.
At Medcare, we have introduced a chronic care management programme to help patients live healthier.
With the support of a case manager and a treating physician, patients are guided to healthier habits while slowing down the progression of their condition.
Managing a chronic disease can be empowering. Understanding the condition and making allowances for it can prevent complications while helping patients reclaim a sense of control.
For connected care to work, patients’ medical records need to be digitised. How’s Medcare taking care of that?
Medcare has partnered with InterSystems, a global leader in health information technology, to implement the TrakCare unified healthcare information system across our facilities.
Having a secure, electronic medical record system that gives easy, quick and unified access to information about any of our patients will help us provide the most advanced healthcare services in the region.
The web-based HIS allows clinical and administrative teams immediate access to seamless integrated electronic patient information from departments and laboratories in the facilities, in addition to streamlining all aspects of patients’ admissions and discharge.
The system allows Medcare to further improve its services by efficiently automating and streamlining hospital operations such as results reporting, order entry and access to diagnostic images. This, in turn, leads to improved communication between members of staff within a hospital.
The advanced interoperability offered by this technology will support our medical staff in decision-making, cost management and streamlining care processes. The connected management system also helps by eliminating duplicate tests, expediting billing and maximising the use of existing resources.
We are committed to making every effort to pave the way for technologically advanced healthcare services that are outstanding by all standards, ensuring we have strategic investments and the best available resources to provide clinical excellence and a seamless patient experience to our patients; all the while maintaining the efficiency of our operations.
Can you take us through the launch of teleMEDCARE?
Our telemedicine platform, teleMEDCARE was introduced in March 2020. The plan to launch the service preceded the onset of the pandemic but it was prioritised to ensure continuity of care during the lockdown period. It also emerged as an effective and sustainable solution for precaution, prevention and treatment to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Using teleMEDCARE, patients can consult a doctor immediately or schedule a future appointment with a specialist. Patients can also get sick leave and have their medication delivered right to their doorstep.
What prompted the launch of Medcare’s Homecare services?
During Covid, people were sceptical about leaving their home, mingling with other people and visiting healthcare facilities. Our Homecare services were introduced to offer a safe and trusted alternative. It started on a small scale in tandem with the launch of teleMEDCARE in April last year. Once we realised the demand and potential, a dedicated team was hired and the service officially launched in June 2020.
You can get a range of services at home including laboratory, nurse, doctor, physio and even vaccination.
What were the challenges of setting up Homecare services?
The main challenge was in recruiting staff during the pandemic, as nurses were helping with various medical initiatives to combat Covid-19.
How has been patients’ response to teleMEDCARE and Homecare services?
The telemedicine platform was built to be a sustainable healthcare delivery platform. After the lockdown was lifted and we went back to a sense of normalcy, our patients continue to use the platform. Combined with our Homecare services, we have created an ecosystem of healthcare delivery that adheres to the highest standards.
There has been an overwhelming demand for the services and the number of users is increasing every month. Their popularity is evident in the fact that 25 per cent of these users are new Medcare patients.
What are your future plans with regard to your telemedicine platform, teleMedcare and Homecare services?
As the world slowly goes back to normality, we are now looking at combining the services and building a sustainable model that will continue to grow post the Covid era.
How does Medcare’s chronic care management programme work?
A dedicated case manager guides the patient through the chronic care management programme via monthly coaching calls, setting of targets and educational material to provide a deeper insight into their condition. They will also track the patient’s appointments, schedule them and send reminders. In addition to consultations with the treating physician, referrals to other specialists are also offered if required.
Patients receive an easy-to-use app, access to Medcare’s patient portal and devices to manage their condition.
Lifestyle changes are an important first step on the journey to wellness. Patients are offered an optional discounted subscription to a healthy meal plan, personal trainer, gyms and yoga sessions, healthy cooking classes and a complimentary session with a psychologist.
They also receive a 30 per cent discount on Homecare services for lab, nurses, physiotherapy and doctor visits.