5 MILLION SUFFER FROM CHRONIC DISEASE

Saudi Arabia 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Reem Fahd Al Bunyan, CEO of King Fahad Specialist Hospital (KFSH), on the broader healthcare sector, the management of chronic diseases, and IT integration.

How would you describe the position of the hospital in the broader health system?

KFSH is a tertiary quaternary care center and is the only one in the eastern region of the country. It is considered one of medical cities and specialized health care centers that are part of the Ministry of Health (MOH). It comes second in sequence historically after King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh. We have four centers of excellence: a large oncology center that is number one nationwide in terms of number of patients with breast cancer and number two in overall number of patients, a reputable multi-organ transplant center that is the second largest in the country and largest within MOH, a neurosciences center with a number of highly specialized programs, and a cardiac center. In addition, we have a number of signature programs under various departments. KFSH is also part of the first cluster developing in the country; an integrated healthcare system that would be part of a corporate entity. We now have an advisory board that is tasked with the first phase of the E1 cluster, and eventually it will become a fully-enabled board of directors with autonomy and financial authorities.

What is behind the health transformation initiative currently taking place in the country?

The current transformation is the first ever in healthcare in our country and is the largest among all transformations in all ministries in terms of the manpower and budget that is involved. The transformation initiative is driven by an urgency that relates to the growing number of people suffering from chronic diseases. At present, we have about 5 million people with chronic diseases and if we do nothing about it, this number will double by 2030. The cost of healthcare will increase exponentially as we go forward, and the healthcare system in its current state is not sustainable. We need a new system that revolves around a new care delivery model, where the individual is central. This new model is driven by the recipient, the individual, and the family, with the objective to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being. From the individual's perspective, delivery is divided into six systems of care: keep them well, help them with their chronic disease, help them with their urgent care condition, help them have a safe pregnancy and childbirth, help them with their planned surgery, and finally help them with the last phase of their lives. Thus, the delivery takes into account the entire spectrum of where the activities take place, and in order to be engaged, they need to be educated, aware, and involved. They need a healthy community surrounding them, virtual tools, excellent primary care setup, and great hospital care. My personal involvement in this story is as a national leader for the chronic disease system of care and I am privileged to be involved in this initiative knowing that this is the largest slice of the pie; 80% of the activities in healthcare are related to chronic disease management.

What role does IT play in the entire integration process?

Digital solutions are key to enabling transformation in health and healthcare. The decisions on what we need to do from a digital perspective are driven by the care delivery, and integration of these care facilities, including engagement of the individual and giving them access to their data, will be solved by digital solutions. At the level of developing clusters, there will need to be a digital platform with all the necessary data on the patient as he or she flows through the system. Another dimension of the digital aspect is what the service center will have, including receiving calls aligned with the recent initiatives by the MOH to provide telehealth. An integrated model will enhance our ability to provide this highly specialized care for patients at the right time by the right provider. A patient who needs a sophisticated procedure would have the procedure, be transferred out, and create room for easy access for the next patient.

What are your goals and ambitions for the hospital in 2018?

I look forward to KFSH being a leader in this new transformed healthcare system, nationwide, region-wide, and worldwide. We are in a unique situation currently with the opportunity to transfer knowledge to the rest of the nation and region at-large. I look forward to seeing the fruit of all of this work and seeing the population benefit from the new system. National and international partnerships have also been part of our mission. We have a national and international collaboration office that is extremely active. We have a number of collaborations with regional countries and governments. We also have a large executive administration for academic affairs and training and a number of accredited training programs for residencies and fellowships. We envision this administration being the one to take care of the entire cluster.