26 Jan 2012

Leaders in Healthcare - The Patient Experience

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

To those of you who are visiting, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Dubai and the UAE. It is a privilege to be among so many distinguished members of the medical community.

Millions of people around the world depend on our healthcare systems to provide them with the quality healthcare that they deserve. In 2009 alone, hospitals in the United States treated 127 million emergency room visitors, cared for five million outpatients, performed 27 million surgeries, and delivered over four million babies.

Similar numbers were reported in Europe, and millions more sought medical treatment in high-population countries like China and India.

It is sometimes easy to forget that these are not just medical cases – they are people. 

They are the mother of six children who has just found out that her cancer is no longer in remission. They are the young boy who has been told he cannot play sports because of a life threatening heart condition that will challenge him for the rest of his life. They are the grandfather who can no longer remember the names of his children or his children’s children because Alzheimer's continues to cause gradual, irreversible changes in his brain.

These are the harsh realities that many people - our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters - face in their lifetimes.

Today, the nature of healthcare delivery is, more than ever before, focused on the patient and the patient experience. We are yet to witness a complete paradigm shift from provider-centered care to patient-centered care.

The high quality of healthcare professionals, coupled with major advancements in technology, robust research efforts and the expansion of academic programs have made substantial progress in helping patients live longer and healthier, while benefiting from a higher quality of life.

But we must not rest.

In a world that is rapidly changing, we must continue to seek new ways to meet the needs of today’s patients. We must create a modern healthcare system that provides every patient the right care, in the right way, and at the right time. Access, affordability, innovation and high quality care should be the benchmarks of each and every healthcare system around the world.

With this in mind, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, established Dubai Healthcare City. His goal was to create a regional center of excellence for patient-centered care and an internationally renowned hub for integrated medical services.

Today, his vision still holds true.  

The Dubai Healthcare City Authority, the governing body of Dubai Healthcare City, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center, and the Center for Healthcare Planning and Quality, is working together with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and the Dubai Health Authority, to create an environment where excellence in patient care lies at the very core of our medical community.

Patient trust is critical to achieving the UAE’s role as a leader in healthcare delivery. Patients have the right to expect treatments that not only meet high standards of care but are aligned with international medical practices.

Our commitment to delivering quality healthcare to patients begins with attracting world-class healthcare professionals, particularly Emirati nationals.

Every healthcare provider must meet stringent standards in order to be licensed to practice in Dubai. These high standards are maintained through a series of ongoing inspections and requirements that assure a baseline expectation for the quality of services provided.

Our high standard of care and the wide range of services continue to attract patients from across the UAE and the region. The easy access to a variety of specialized services facilitates a multi-disciplinary approach that can make a life-or-death difference to patients.

In a patient-centered culture, the best any healthcare system can do is ensure that a patient remains comfortable throughout the entire process. By guaranteeing high standards are in place, patients will, naturally, gain more and more trust in the entire healthcare system.

Creating a patient-centered culture also requires a greater focus on the psychology of healthcare.  

It is important that patients have more access to nature, more control over their personal environment and less exposure to environmental stressors. Reducing noise, improving air quality and providing proper lighting promotes healing, helps prevent medical errors, emphasizes quality care, and supports the physical comfort and psychological well-being of patients.

Creating these healing atmospheres, in essence, transforming a patient’s overall experience, should be at the very heart of our healthcare delivery systems.

Medical research and education are other essential elements of quality care. Innovative discoveries, new procedures, less-invasive surgical treatments and other advancements have radically improved the patient experience in recent years.

But there is still so much more to learn.

We are committed to supporting and promoting high quality education and research by creating a platform to grow, attract and retain healthcare professionals through home-grown, extensive academic and research programs, ultimately benefiting our patients.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center is the foundation of Dubai’s clinical, research and education structure. In its partnership with renowned academic institutions, it will establish world-class medical education and research programs to create a sustainable healthcare workforce, allowing UAE residents to be treated closer to home.

The University Teaching Hospital at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center will provide high quality care for patients and a wide variety of learning opportunities for students and resident doctors pursuing careers as specialized physicians, nurses or other healthcare professionals.

The University Hospital will be supported by a library, a simulation center, continuous professional development programs and a research support office, all of which will, in turn, further promote our medical education and research platform.

As part of our healthcare education and training, the Khalaf Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Center, also at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center, will offer a hands-on opportunity to practice optimal patient care, encourage critical thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration among our medical teams.

In the coming decade, advanced medical technologies will build more momentum, providing new and improved personalized treatments, better diagnoses and reduced recovery times to patients around the world.

But, is that really the case?

In this day and age, and in healthcare systems around the world, the hands-on, physical exam has become somewhat of a lost art. Easy access to advanced technologies has reduced the need for basic, clinical methods, creating a gap between many physicians and their patients. Compassion, support and understanding have taken a back seat to modern technology. 

In developing a trusting relationship with a patient, the physical examination is still a very important part of the overall process. We must not waste too much of our patients’ time - or money - simply because technology allows us to.

That is not what patient-centered care is all about.

Nevertheless, it is essential that each and every healthcare system around the world develops an IT infrastructure to better serve patients’ evolving needs.

As a result, we have joined the growing movement toward the process of transitioning from paper-based records to electronic health records.

Like many healthcare systems around the world, we will soon adopt new technologies to ensure that medical information is collected, stored and shared for the benefit of patients, with full respect of their privacy. They will empower patients to take a more effective role in protecting their health, and at the same time, allow physicians to be more efficient and accurate in the care they provide.

For patients, it will mean more access to information, secure health records and ultimately, better health.

For providers, it will mean readily available and organized medical data, better communication, less wasted time, less risk and improved outcomes.

As with every healthcare system there comes an effort to help patients deal with the financial aspects of their treatment and care. Health insurance is essential because coverage helps patients get the medical care they need, at the very time that they need it. 

By building stronger relationships with our insurance providers, we aim to not only improve the continuity of care but also ensure that the healthcare that we provide is affordable and accessible to each and every patient.  

What all of this adds up to is better care for our patients, their families, and our communities.

As we continue to fulfill the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, we must remember that the true test of a patient centered culture is in its sustainability and its ability to push forward during the most challenging of times.

Patients, today, expect a lot more from our healthcare systems than ever before. Even when the game is at stake, the patient must always comes first.

Thank you.