CIO

E-Health Starts with The Patient

The best way to implement an e-health project is to involve users from the start, and to make the patient the centre of things, says a former Saudi CIO soon to visit Australia

The best way to implement an e-health project is to involve users from the start, and to make the patient the centre of things, says a former Saudi CIO soon to visit Australia.

Bassam A Al-Kharashi, deputy director general sales, marketing & business development for the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Medical & Educational Telecommunications Program says making patients the priority has been key to the success of a major business process transformation effort underway at the 220-bed King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital.

"(In starting this project) we looked at our customer, which is the patient, and we asked ourselves why the patient comes to hospital, comes to see a doctor. The doctor has to provide health-care, provides services to the patient.

Today, a vast network of 279 hospitals and 3254 clinics and primary health-care facilities blankets Saudi Arabia, providing the whole range of medical services, from prenatal care to advanced surgical procedures

"So we need to start with these two entities, the patient systems, and human resources because the physician is part of the human resources system. And from there we move into the other systems — the finance — and we go through the cycle of the patient — why the patient comes, and then what kind of services that help them. It makes a big difference," Al-Kharashi says.

Al-Kharashi will be in Australia next month to attend the Australasian Process Days 2007 conference, called Highlights and Experiences from Healthcare Process Management in Saudi Arabia.

He is former CIO of the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, and a board member of the Saudi Health Informatics Association, with more than 10 years of experience in IT projects working in organizations in Saudi Arabia. He worked with a team to organize the first BPM conference in Saudi Arabia in 2006, and has taken part in various projects and committees in performance improvement, business process management, quality initiative and strategic planning. He also initiated and managed a BPM project when he was the CIO at King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital.

The Saudi Government describes itself as "dedicated to the concept of providing the best health-care possible for all its citizens" and in the process has employed every available innovation to achieve this lofty goal. The Kingdom's newest tool in this national effort is state-of-the-art telecommunications. The country is now one of the leading practitioners of telemedicine anywhere in the world, using the cutting-edge technology both for clinical applications and educational purposes in the field of medicine.

Saudi Arabia launched a long range health-care program emphasizing steady qualitative and quantitative advances in 1970. Today, a vast network of 279 hospitals and 3254 clinics and primary health-care facilities blankets the country, providing the whole range of medical services, from prenatal care to advanced surgical procedures. Saudis suffering from serious illness once had to travel abroad in search of treatment. Today hospitals in the Kingdom routinely perform organ transplants and other complex operations once associated with only a handful of Western hospitals.

With most of the necessary hospitals and other medical facilities either established or under construction, the emphasis in Saudi health-care in recent years has steadily shifted to improving the quality of care and broadening the scope of specialized fields of medicine covered by the Saudi network. To this end, most Saudi hospitals, both those run by the Ministry of Health and other government agencies — which constitute the majority of health-care facilities — as well as those operated by the private sector, have instituted extensive programs to evaluate the quality of their services and introduced steps to ensure that they are abreast of the latest advances in the field.

"The King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital has a wealth of experience over the past twenty years in putting in standards and applying policies and procedures," Al-Kharashi says. "In the first three years we worked heavily in the business process management within the hospital to streamline business processes there.

"This year we are focusing on business processes within health-care. And where usually most organizations in Saudi Arabia get systems, install them, start to train new users and use them, in this case, to make the project succeed, we trained the users on business process management. We conducted workshops within the hospital, we had what we call business facilitators within the hospital from the users who have experience in how to map business processes, how to redesign them, and how to apply them within the hospital. And now we are working with the provider of these systems to map these business processes within these systems — all these systems — the health information systems and the other systems based on workflow. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't difficult.

"Now we are moving into the second stage, where looking at our customer is a priority."