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by Dr. Colin Fincham
Published on October 13, 2016

Using analytics is essential in identifying health risks and managing patient care

Digital health care is more than just entering patient information into an electronic medical records (EMR) system. It is about making sure those data are being used and being used appropriately to effectively manage a patient’s health.

In its 25-year history in the Middle East, Cerner has witnessed steady growth. Headquartered in the UAE (Dubai), its regional presence also includes four other countries. The company currently works with over 200 different sites, boasting more than 68,000 users on its system and a hefty 37 million patient records – equivalent to the entire population of the UAE.

What that means is we can do a lot of things with health organisations in order to transform health care.

Managing population health

Analytics can play a huge part in population health management (PHM), which is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group. Simply put, it doesn’t just look at the overall health of a population, but also the distribution of health.

We have some particular health issues in this region that are very much lifestyle-driven such as obesity and it’s very expensive to have people coming back to hospitals because of complications. If we can reduce complications, reduce illness and the burden of disease, it's better for our population, as well as for governments so they can re-purpose their budget and spend it on building parks, for instance, to allow people to get fit.

In addressing PHM, Cerner is guided by its motto “Know, Engage, Manage”. Ensuring a population’s health is managed effectively involves knowing the people afflicted with diabetes, for example, and being able to recall and treat them. Once you’ve got those patients engaged, you want to keep them healthy by working with them so their conditions can be controlled or managed.

Cerner has been working with governments across the region for the creation of a unified medical record – data than can be shared among and accessed by multiple health organisations so they can better manage a population’s health.

Patient Portal

One of Cerner’s digital tools that encourage patient engagement is Patient Portal. Engagement is really about ensuring that patients take responsibility and fully participate in their health care management. So we have implemented our Patient Portal both here in the UAE and Qatar. It's a tool that allows patients access to a subset of their medical record.

The platform allows patients to communicate with the hospital and their care providers. Specifically, it gives them access to their records, which are updated in real time, allows them to make medical appointments, and send messages to their doctor or care team using strong encryption algorithm.

It's a fairly new digital tool in the region, but we have gradually seen an uptake here. Patient Portal is provided in both English and Arabic and it's available through the web, or via an app, called HealtheLife.

** This was originally published in CEO Report. **