SPECIAL REPORT: Kuwait’s digital transformation journey
“At the moment the majority of healthcare services are provided by the public sector and Kuwait’s Vision 2035 is to diversify and also make the private sector a key player in providing health services to everybody,” explains Dr Dari Alhuwail, assistant professor at Kuwait University.
Digital health transformation is a cornerstone and pillar of this vision. As a pioneer of the health sector during the early 1980s, Kuwait is a very mature market in subsidised healthcare, according to Omair Shraim, CIO at Sapphire.
“Moving forward, Kuwait is investing a lot in growing, and scaling up its health sector,” says Shraim. “Kuwait realised that it needs to turn to information technology to get the most out of overhauling the health sector. As such, we’re seeing a lot of focus and investment into digital health and IT.”
This growth is happening in parallel with adopting international standards such as those developed by HIMSS, Shraim adds.
The Sabah Al Ahmad Urology Centre (SAUC) was donated by the ruler of Kuwait, his highness, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jabar Al-Sabah in 2013, to be a high-calibre specialised centre in urology and research centre. Advanced Technology Company (ATC) was involved in the centre from day one and its seven divisions are unified under Sapphire.
Dr Fawzi Abul, SAUC hospital director, comments: “The Ministry of Health is introducing a new electronic health record (EHR) system all over hospitals with the idea of providing quick access to the patients’ records, having more secure records and a paperless hospital. The Ministry gave us the freedom to tailor each hospital to its needs according to the system.”
From a clinical perspective, SAUC consultant in urology, Dr Arun Narayanaswamy, sees increased efficiency as one major advantage of the integrated EHR system. “It is basically time-saving, so I can spend less time on the computer ordering stuff and more time talking and understanding the patients’ problems.”
He adds that it is now easier to see the previous medication a patient has been taking. “This is especially useful when multiple physicians are involved in patient care, so you can each see what the other physician has prescribed for the patient.
“The patients are also pretty impressed that they don't have to carry around their old X-rays and reports every time they come to meet us. Everything is available for us to see immediately.”
Urology surgeons at SAUC are trained to use the Da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system, which comprises three units - the console, the robots and the tower.
“The movement of the instruments make it very easy for the surgeon to do the operation. We have a simulator for this robot and the programme takes three to four weeks to teach the doctors about movement,” says SAUC urology surgeon, Dr Sherif Mohamed Megahed.
“The patients are very surprised that they can go home one or two days after their operations with the full range of movement, when they thought they would have to stay in hospital for 10 days. We’re trying now to get more robots and more advanced ones,” he adds.
Dr Waleed Eassa, paediatric urology consultant, says that Sapphire has made it easier to book appointments and assign patients to specific times in the clinic.
“It’s very easy for us to retrieve patient data from the system and the system alerts us if there are any interactions with medications. We can even assign a next visit for the patient and book it from the same station or book in a specific time for surgery, so it makes our life easier and faster, and leaner for the patient.”
Although there was initially some physician hesitation Dr Eassa says this has been overcome. “Through cooperation with IT, changing culture, adoption and tailoring of the system according to our needs, slowly we’re starting to get used to it as part of our lives.”
Sapphire’s Hospital Management System has also been adopted at Al Adan Hospital, which serves a population of over a million with 1,000 beds and an emergency department which serves between 2,000 to 2,500 people a day.
Shraim believes that Sapphire is the most scalable solution for the hospital’s future expansion and to help hospital management achieve their international accreditation goals for patient safety and quality of care.
“Right now, the Ministry of Health in Kuwait is building another a thousand bed expansion to the hospital, so whatever they establish in Al Adan needs to grow into the future. Hence the HIMSS EMRAM and related standards play a big role in validating those investments and in recognising hospitals that are able to adopt technology and investments in the right way.”
Dispensing medication has also become easier under Sapphire, according to Al Adan senior pharmacist, Hawra Al-Husaini.
“Implementing Sapphire helped us in stock management and in delivering safe, high quality patient care,” she explains. “We’re now able to control the expiry dates and the quantities that we request, and we’re able to identify how many medications we have in locations over our hospitals. All our pharmacies are linked together, so even if the item is not available in the store it will tell us which pharmacy in the hospital, we can find it at.”
E-prescribing has also made life easier for doctors. “It’s a lot easier than writing the medication,” Al-Husaini continues. “We started with one clinic and now all of them are fully electronic. Doctors can see if the medication is available or not and the different concentrations available in our pharmacy. They know if they need a substitute and what substitutes are available.”