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by Alaa Adel
Published on October 15, 2018

Where is health and care in the Middle East headed, and how will Cerner help nations get there? General manager Alaa Adel has been speaking to The Arab Hospital Magazine to set out Cerner’s role in an exciting new world.

In terms of your own background, how long have you held your position at your company?

I have been with Cerner for almost ten years, where I have held various roles. I am currently the senior director and country general manager for Saudi Arabia and Egypt at Cerner Middle East and Africa. My day-to-day responsibilities are to ensure our clients and partners are well equipped to achieve their goals and achieve value through their collaboration with Cerner.

As we all know, Cerner is a global leader in health care technologies. What are your latest innovations?

Cerner is a key driver in the journey toward smarter, consumer-led health care provision in the Middle East. For more than 26 years, we have connected people and systems at health care organizations of all sizes, supporting key clinical, financial and operational needs. The Cerner Millennium® electronic health record (EHR) platform stores data for millions of people across the region, provisioning a single patient database that can be accessed instantly by participating health care providers.

HealtheIntent®, our big data platform, takes modern possibilities further, with potentially industry-changing results. For example, in a hospital or clinic setting, you give your doctor information that is logged into your EHR. But let’s say that you go home, and you’re on your scale, or perhaps you’re diabetic and you take a glucose reading: where does that information go? Currently, such data is lost, trapped in an ‘information silo.’ You want it to go to the same place – your health record.

This platform collects and collates medical and socioeconomic data from a range of sources. Instead of being limited to what is entered within hospitals and clinics, this system can take data from consumer sources such as smart watches, electronic scales, diet apps, as well as clinical sources such as health information exchanges (HIEs), pharmacy benefit managers and more. This information could provide clinicians with a more accurate, well-rounded assessment of a patient’s health, which may speed up diagnostics, improve accuracy and support them to provide the best possible care.

I foresee the Middle East being uniquely positioned to deliver a smart population health management system, with Cerner playing a key role in linking up institutions and their pools of data.

Cerner is a leader in health care technologies and your systems are widely used, but what sets you apart from your competition?

Our company is not just a software provider or consultancy group with a single set of strategies to help our clients. We have a set of best practices and guidelines that help guide clinicians toward the best health outcomes for patients, but we also know that no two patients are alike. A certain degree of flexibility is needed to obtain optimal adoption. We also believe that you need a software solution that is always on, always thinking and always analyzing the situation and providing advice and guidance to everyone that it touches.

Cerner has been around for nearly four decades. We are leveraging all the experience we have across the company to support our clients, both public and private, to hit their objectives. We have many clients that we are proud to collaborate with, and that network is helping to transform health care in the region. Cerner wants to make the Middle East’s government visions on health care a reality.

Cerner plays a pivotal role in establishing the level of trust required to fully realize the benefits of new data sharing health systems across the region. Central to this cornerstone of our business is a pool of medical expertise, both in-house and in collaboration with clients.

Not only does Cerner provision its own EHR and its consultants’ analytical skills, but we also support clients to make the most of the data contained within both its own and other providers’ systems.

Our strong Middle East presence is what sets us apart from other providers, facilitated by a recruitment policy that, over the past five to seven years, has strongly favored locals over expats. We live and work in the countries we serve, so we are even more determined to transform health care for the better.

Do you think governments in the region are helping in taking health care to another level?

Each country is at a different stage in their health care journey, but they are all working to create healthier communities and populations.

With a demographic shift where the population above the age of 60 is expected to rise considerably in the next decade, increased private sector participation and health insurance coverage are amongst some of the chief factors raising the stakes for high growth opportunities in the health care sector in the Middle East. In addition, we see countries creating ambitious national visions, such as Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020 (NTP) to improve the quality of health care services and facilities, while optimizing available resources thereby boosting opportunities for increased private sector participation. That’s why I believe that effective regulatory frameworks will help facilitate the flow of private investment and the encouragement of public-private partnerships will sustain growth even in the face of long-term challenges.

In this respect, technology is playing a big role in our lives across all industries and health care is no exception. With a strong IT infrastructure and the mindset to take it a level higher, the foundation will be built to allow information to flow freely.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, health care stakeholders are welcoming digital disruption to transform the sector in the coming years. For example, in many cases where the need for physician opinion or consultation is urgent but does not require a personal meeting, physician e-visits can be done over the phone or through video conferencing. These types of visits can be more efficient and convenient for both the patient and the physician and lead to better results as opportunities for complications can be reduced (if the patient waits to seek treatment). In addition, a virtual waiting room can help prevent infection between patients that could occur at a physical waiting room.

Also, the sharing of data across facilities and the possibility of having a single patient file across providers is a game changer, as it negates the need for unnecessary examinations and conflict of treatments which arise from fragmented care.

Tell us about your vision and any exciting new developments coming up that will shape the consumer’s health care experience.

Cerner’s mission will always be to connect people, knowledge and resources in a way to achieve the best health outcome.

The largest upcoming shift in the health care market will be the impact of the consumer as they become more empowered to take control of their health and have more requirements of how they want that to be done.

As the consumer is asked to pay for even more of the health care service they receive, they will begin to make different choices. New ways to provide health care (virtual reality visits, home visits, etc) will begin to take the place of traditional clinic visits. These types of visits will create massive disruption to the current market and providers who are slow to act will be out of business quickly.

This shift will be as swift as what Uber or Careem were to the taxi industry or what AirBnB was to the hotel industry. Health care providers will no longer have an unlimited supply of new patients as new custom service will take over. Gaining patient loyalty will be key in continued success of medical providers. This shift will create the need for new software solutions, new consultancies and new ways of doing business.

I am personally excited by the new market that is being formed today, as Cerner has been preparing for this day for quite some time now. We have already created the Internet of Health and Life, which is a cloud-based system that allows for the import of all patient data and access of this data based upon permissions controlled by the patient. This system will not only have data from the legacy EHRs, but will also have access to data that can be collected by the patient’s clothes, their wearables, their visits to the gym, the food they consume and their vitals 24 hours a day and the like.

To read the interview in Arabic, follow this link to the digital version of The Arab Hospital issue 144. You can also click here to read the full digital magazine of The Hospitals issue 42.