HUMAN TOUCH

Abu Dhabi 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Ahmad Al Haje, CEO of The Health Medical Services, on capacity gaps, preventative care, and transparency.

Where do the Health Medical Services fit within the health sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in terms of addressing capacity gaps?

Seeing multiple gaps in the existing healthcare market, we started ten years ago as a healthcare consultancy, setting up businesses for more than 100 medical facilities, which included clinics, medical centers, homecare and pharmacies. We chose Al Ain as it has a developing healthcare market and a prospect of being a medical tourism destination. The population of Al Ain previously had to travel, either to Abu Dhabi, Dubai or even abroad, to benefit from tertiary or supportive healthcare. However, the gap has been bridged, to a certain extent, due to an improvement in outreach and accessibility to care. After the initial few years, we also diversified into providing homecare services, having exponentially grown in the number of personnel providing quality service to our clients, with a fair geographical distribution across the UAE. Over the years, with the help of feasibility studies and population surveys, we have addressed the special needs segment of chiropractic, occupational therapy, speech therapy, ambulance services and audiology by establishing a rehabilitation center. The US-based Accreditation Commission for Health Care vetting our quality of service to the clients, was also an important milestone. For the future, we are thinking of establishing medical centers with multi ethnic healthcare personnel, to enhance the communication channels between clients of different nationalities, resulting in effective healthcare delivery. Currently we perceive ourselves well placed, as an organization, addressing the needs of the clients, with a diversified healthcare delivery system, spread across different domains.

What are some of the most relevant special health services that are in demand and why do you think this is the case?

The feasibility studies and surveys have helped us in understanding that the outreach of supportive services is the area that needs to be tapped. There is also a need for effective patient and family education. Healthcare personnel needs to deliver a variety of services, engage constantly with the clients, make them aware of their contribution towards the well-being, as prevention is always better than cure. This will require an active involvement and co-operation from all the stakeholders in the healthcare market and should be driven by the regulatory bodies in UAE. Once these issues are solved, major areas of focus that hold a good deal of potential, are rehabilitation centers and tele-medicine, which is also an uncharted territory in the UAE.

What medical fields and processes are likely to be most affected by the advent of digitization?

Digitization has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it does help in bringing down the timeframe in completing processes and primarily improves accessibility to different specialties and needs, such as telemedicine. The down part is data security maintenance (patient confidentiality) and the high investments required in setting up the system, which can be worked around by defining and understanding the scope and delivery systems of an organization. I also see a significant change in the way medical records are made, maintained and disposed with the advent of digitization. No matter how advanced or digitized the healthcare domain does become, it still requires the “human touch." That being said, the pressing issue currently in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is the stability of medical practitioners within an organization; physicians moving from one organization to another does not instill confidence in the patient, due to inaccessibility during the time of requirement. There should be a regulatory mechanism in place to safeguard the interests of the organization too.

What is the key to solving the heavier presence of public sector medical facilities in Al Ain and what opportunities can stem from an eventual resolution?

There needs to be more transparency in the communications between investors, insurance companies, and government, along with a strategic alignment with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021. Moreover, there needs to be a stability in the rules for payouts by insurance companies; ratings to facilities are being implemented in questionable ways, so that insurance companies have to pay back less. This ends up being an added burden to the facilities. Another primary concern is the wages gap between the government and private sector. If there is a cushion for the return on investments made by the private medical facilities, to thrive and sustain, especially the small players, this wage gap can be reduced to a certain extent, though might be not be completely eliminated.