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engaging patients with technology

Engaging Patients with Technology: Q&A with Dr. Osama Alswailem of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre

Published on 12/5/2018

Saudi Arabia—primarily a national system of government-provided health care—is focused on increasing funding to improve health care and, in return, the lives of its citizens. Fueled by a strong economy driven by the oil production industry and a vision for the future, Saudi Arabia’s government has spent billions of Saudi Riyals to develop and improve health care, which has increased the number of government and private health care facilities across the country.

Over the next five years, the government will cumulatively spend $180 billion on health care in both the traditional and frontier subsectors. This is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to achieve a world-class health care system and establish the kingdom as a pioneering health care destination in the region and the world. The strategic plan is also driving several Saudi health care facilities, led by organizations such as King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre (KFSH&RC), to implement technology and electronic information systems. KFSH&RC is the first health system outside of North America to achieve Stage 7 on the ambulatory Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model by HIMSS Analytics.

In this Q&A, Dr. Osama Alswailem, King Faisal's chief information officer, discusses how mobile health tools and technology have improved patient engagement and outcomes as well as its implications for Saudi Arabia’s long-term population health goals.


Using technology to advance patient-focused care

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

Alswailem: Patient care and, more importantly, patient-focused delivery have always been our primary goal. We are 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 Fourth Industrial Revolution — 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 we deliver that care. For example, our smart rooms are designed to constantly educate the patient and keep them comfortable 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 role has technology played in delivering an enhanced patient experience?

Technology is greatly changing health care. With greater demand on artificial intelligence, predictive 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 using 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 King Faisal, 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 for patient and family engagement. The portal is the leading tool for our mobile health strategy, and we are enhancing it though integration with other King Faisal clinical systems. Numerous patients use the portal to view their records, appointments and share information with the clinicians.


Increasing patient engagement through mobile health

What steps have you 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 IT along with patient communication. The key steps we have identified are:

  • Ensuring adequate expectations when patients or health care providers are trying to access King Faisal care records
  • 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 our providers and patients. Now, we can monitor whether the patient is positively progressing.

What specific areas of patient engagement improve outcomes?

The biggest impact comes when 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 patient self-reliance and self-care. Smartphone and mobile device usage has played a major role for King Faisal in being able to conveniently and constantly engage and educate patients. It’s a medium that should be fully used by health care organizations. Personalized patient engagement can now safely expand beyond hospital boundaries toward positive care across the continuum.


Shifting to proactive care

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 has and will have on health care and how patient interaction has evolved. 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 to the patient. 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 buildup to artificial intelligence and personalized patient care, we need to ensure that these technologies are developed with the best possible patient experience in mind.

Cerner is focused on connecting traditional venues, the health continuum and advanced information about a person’s lifestyle to empower individuals in their health and care. Learn more here.