WAITING ROOM

Saudi Arabia 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

KFMC is on the frontlines of the Saudi medical system's transformation under Vision 2030, increasing access to primary care doctors to fulfill urgent healthcare needs.

Dr. Fahad S. Al-Ghofaili
BIOGRAPHY

Dr. Fahad S. Al-Ghofaili was appointed as CEO of KFMC in September 2018, after serving in progressive roles within the organization over the past 13 years, including as medical director for the King Salman Heart Center and executive director of Medical Affairs. Dr. Fahad is also a practicing cardio thoracic surgeon, licensed through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Canada and SCFHS. He obtained his bachelor of medicine and surgery at King Saud University and continued his post graduate residency and fellowship programs at the University of Ottawa, in addition to a master's in public health at the University of Minnesota.

KFMC has grown to become one of the leading tertiary care facilities, now within the Riyadh Second Healthcare Cluster. What opportunities are there to increase efficiency and better serve patients in the new structure?

The concept of “cluster" is a population-based entity that serves from 1.5 to 3 million people­—rather than a specific geographical area or location. We are moving from the previous service-centered approach toward implementing a patient-centered approach. Within the clusters, all levels of care are provided; primary, secondary, and advanced care. The system is driven by outcomes so the patient will have easy access to consistent quality and efficient care. We are empowering primary healthcare centers to take the lead in providing all primary and chronic care, which will offload the tertiary care centers. This care will be provided at the new and revamped primary care facilities, which will allow them to act as the vendor for triaging and referral to specialist care. Primary healthcare will be the hub for all access to care, which is a major transformation. In fact, it should deliver around 60% of the total healthcare provided. The grand vision is to have a healthier population and increase the life expectancy from the current 72 years to 80 years by 2030.

How do you envision to enhance how trauma care is provided today?

Trauma is fragmented today, which is why it is not yet on par globally. In fact, trauma is the leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia for the younger population. In other countries, the leading cause of death are cancer and chronic diseases, with trauma between fifth and 10th place. Therefore, it is one of our three primary focuses under our national programs along with stroke and coronary disease. We require an integrated efficient system that will provide a high level of trauma service. We want to deliver quick access to post-trauma care.

What is your vision on the application of telemedicine, both for consultations and even long-distance treatment, and what do you think of using technology for advanced medical care in general?

The country's healthcare administration has realized that without investing in e-health we will have redundancy in the system, so it is certainly a priority for all the stakeholders involved. Today, we are understaffed in terms of ICU and oncology physicians for which there is big demand. Therefore, it would be impossible to establish such a tertiary care center somewhere in the north of the Kingdom, but what we can do is strive to provide a similar service utilizing technology, telemedicine, tele-ICU, tele-emergency, and tele-oncology.

What are the primary ambitions for the coming years?

When we shared our experience with the other clusters, we realized we had many of the same issues in common. There is a robust infrastructure in place, but there is a large gap between the level of care provided by the primary system and the services delivered at the tertiary level, which are in great demand. The coming three years will be dedicated to building a robust primary healthcare system. This will offload our outpatient departments by 20%. We should be able to cut our waiting lists by 25%. At the same time, we can provide specialized treatment for chronic illnesses in the primary healthcare setting. In terms of financial management, we strive to develop a better data collection and data banking system. That will enable us to utilize a more transparent method of calculating costs. Over the last 10 years, we have invested heavily in certain disease groups, and we have become proficient in neuroscience, cardiac care, and oncology. Before committing and making new investments in specific areas, we need to have in place our value-based healthcare system and integrated practice units. Patients should be comfortable knowing that when they come for heart surgery, they will be taken care of from the moment they are admitted to the hospital until they are discharged.