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by Dr. Osama Alswailem
Published on October 22, 2017

A Q&A with Cerner and Dr. Osama Alswailem of King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre


Fueled by a strong economy, driven by the oil production industry and a vision for the future, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s government has spent billions of Saudi Riyals to develop and improve the kingdom’s health care, which has increased the number of government and private health care facilities across the country.

Since Saudi Arabia’s health structure is primarily a national system of government-provided health care, the kingdom’s focus has been on increased funding to improve health care and, in return, the lives of its citizens. Over the next four years, Saudi Arabia’s health care sector is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 12.3 percent, according to the “2016 Global Medical Trend Rates” Aon Hewitt report.

Driven by the country’s Vision 2030 project, a long-term project to grow and develop Saudi Arabia’s economy, a number of Saudi health care facilities have begun to implement technology and electronic information systems, led by organizations like King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSH&RC). KFSH&RC was the first health system outside of North America to achieve Stage 7 on the ambulatory Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) by HIMSS Analytics. KFSH&RC is also Saudi Arabia’s first integrated digital hospital that successfully deployed the highest level of health IT.

Dr. Osama Alswailem, KFSH&RC’s Chief Information Officer, spoke with Perspectives editors to explain how mobile health tools and technology have improved patient engagement and outcomes as well as its implications for the kingdom’s long-term population health goals.

Tell us about the patient experience at KFSC&RC. Why is this an important area of focus for your organization?

Patient care and, more importantly, patient-focused delivery has always been our primary goal.?KFSH&RC is a regional leader in health care, so Saudi citizens not only look to us for care but also for credible health care information and the latest regional health care implications.?Our patient experience is constantly evolving, and the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) — which is the fusion of technologies — magnifies the blurred lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.

Technology plays a major role not only within the continuum of care but more importantly in how KFSH&RC delivers that care.?For example, our smart rooms have been designed to constantly educate the patient and keep them in a comfortable state, while allowing them to be in control of their surroundings.?We’ve also learned that recovery times are greatly impacted by a patient’s comfort, so we try to enhance their stay to impact the rate and recovery of success.

We constantly engage and educate patients on their personal care through mobile health integration within our care delivery model. This expands our footprint of care well beyond hospital boundaries.?We are truly focused on empowering the patient to play a more proactive role in their care.

What steps have KFSH&RC taken to better understand how to improve the patient experience??

It’s been a collective organizational effort that has required clinical engagement, direction, input and information technology along with patient communication.?The key steps we have identified are:

• Ensuring adequate expectations when patients or health care providers are trying to access KFSH&RC care.
• Coordination of care and communication throughout the care cycle once a patient is engaged.
• Health education and promotion throughout the care cycle, including at home.

We realized the use of mobile health at both the organization and patient level was the answer to improving an individual’s experience.?We wanted mobile health services and information to be available to patients at the click of a button.?Our patient portal has played a major role in engaging and educating the patient but also easing access to care.?It’s been integrated with wearable devices that allow constant communication between KFSH&RC and patient. Now, we can not only monitor progress but also ensure the patient is positively progressing.

What role has technology played in delivering an enhanced patient experience??

Technology is greatly impacting health care.?With greater demand on artificial intelligence, predicative analytics and business intelligence, the use of data has become key. KFSH&RC was one of the first organizations in the region to have an EHR so the flow and capture of data is historic for us.?Through the data collected in our electronic system, coupled with our genome project, we are transforming from patient-focused care to personalized patient care.?This has all become possible through the use of modern technology.

How does your organization leverage patient e-services to deliver seamless care and communication for providers and patients??

The biggest positive e-service impact has been through our patient portal, SEHATY®. The interactive patient portal, developed by KFSH&RC, helps to improve the way our patients communicate with our providers.

We have seen progressive engagement through the portal’s mobile application, and we are continuing to leverage it toward patient and family engagement. The portal has become the leading tool for our mobile health strategy, and we are enhancing it though integration with other KFSH&RC clinical systems.?Numerous patients use the portal to view their records and share appointment and information with the clinicians.

What specific areas of patient engagement improve outcomes?

The biggest impact can be had once the patient and family are proactively engaged in their health through education.?An educated patient eventually leads to a healthy patient. Dependency shifts from the health care organization to self-reliance and self-care.?Smartphone and mobile device usage have played a major role for KFSH&RC in being able to conveniently and constantly engage and educate patients.?It’s a medium that should be fully utilized by health care organizations towards proactive patient engagement, especially given that the Word Health Organization expects personal mobile health usage to exceed 1 billion users by 2018.?Personalized patient engagement can now safely expand beyond hospital boundaries towards positive care across the continuum.

What advice would you give other organizations across the globe working to improve the patient experience??

Being a physician by background has shown me the large impact technology can and has had on health care and how interaction with the patient has changed over time.?Some feel that the personal relationship that previously existed between patient and physician no longer exists. I, on the other hand, have seen how health care has become more personalized through technology, where care is more accurate and more specific.?The relationship that used to exist was due to patients’ lack of awareness of their medical condition and their uncertainties.?Being able to now easily engage and educate the patient from various perspectives, I feel we are creating a future of proactive care.

?It has had a great impact on clinical compliance as well as patient and family engagement.?With the gradual build-up to artificial intelligence and personalized patient care, we need to ensure that these technologies are developed with the best possible patient experience in mind.

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