Paperless is the future, especially when it comes to health. In the next two years, the way Dubai's patients and doctors access medical records will be changed as an integrated health record system is introduced.

The Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) Electronic Medical Record (EMR) initiative was launched by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, on February 21 as part of the Dubai Smarter, Dubai Healthier project.

EMR, or the Salama system, will create a unique electronic record for all DHA entities; that is, for all patients at public hospitals and health centers. At the same time, the Electronic Health Record (HER) or NABIDH (Network Analysis Backbone Integrated Dubai Health), which means pulse in Arabic, will integrate medical records of patients by transferring them to private hospitals. The system will bring together DHA entities, health experts from 34 hospitals, and 2,270 private health centers. EMR systems have been implemented in Dubai since 2010, and DHA began evaluating hospitals for a universal electronic medical record system back in 2011. This project, which hopes to turn Dubai into the city of the future, is expected to go live by the first quarter of 2018, and will be the biggest integrated electronic patient information system in the Middle East. The sheer volume of health data generated by this system will help Dubai plan public health policies based on statistical evidence. The EMR system will not only help individual healthcare institutions to quickly access a patient's medical records, but will also efficiently transfer records between entities. Above all, this will benefit the patients, whose data will be stored under a single file system, rather than having numerous files spread across different hospitals and clinics.

A patient's file will include every treatment and condition, including medical allergies, blood group, lifestyle diseases, and even the name of the doctors who treated the patient. Through the Salama system, allergy warnings and real-time alerts will be provided to doctors in order to draw attention to changes in the patient's medication or condition, thus minimizing risk of medication errors. At the same time, this information will be stored in a Central Command System that can be access by essential services such as ambulance services, pharmacies, Dubai Civil Defence, immigration, and the municipality. On the other hand, patients will also be able to access their medical records through a patient portal anywhere in the world. The collected data is expected to help Dubai develop directed policies; for example, effective disease management programs and guidelines. The system will eventually be linked to the National Unified Medical Record (NUMR) to be implemented by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. Research groups will be able to analyze the data, and the results can then be used by healthcare authorities to devise evidence-based policies to address major public health issues. So far, authorities have assured that the medical data will be highly secure and will also help tackle instances of insurance fraud. Another useful aspect of this system is that doctors in Dubai will be able to receive the health information on medical tourists before their arrival. This more efficient healthcare system is part of the preparatory measures to establishing Dubai as the world's largest medical tourism hub.
The collected data will be used as an analytical tool for general health management as well as for the management of disease outbreaks. This system promises to play an important role in the effective implementation of preventive healthcare policies. Even though the integrated system is still at the concept stage, it is expected to change the face of healthcare service in Dubai and, once it is linked to the other Emirates, it will give a comprehensive and clear picture of the magnitude and the direction of the UAE's healthcare services.