The effective exchange of information has long been seen as a key tool for improving healthcare quality and outcomes. On each of our own healthcare journeys, for example, we will inevitably encounter a variety of healthcare facilities, each with its own way of recording data. More often than not, this information can become siloed, with key pieces of information – like known allergies or test results – becoming hidden. As a result, tests and procedures will often need to be repeated unnecessarily when we see a new doctor.
When systems are connected, however, healthcare personnel can readily and reliably exchange important healthcare data in real-time. Health information exchanges (HIEs) can act as a tool to provide safe and secure access to the patient’s most important health information. And, with access to this data, medical teams have the power to provide more effective care.
HIE puts Abu Dhabi at an advantage
When the world was first impacted by COVID-19 in early 2020, inefficiencies in data sharing were quickly exposed. Healthcare systems were put under enormous pressure, due to an inability to manage data from multiple, often complex sources and to pull it in one centralised place. In countries with a unified system for collating this data, healthcare teams were much better placed to face the crisis effectively.
As part of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health’s (DoH) strategy for digital transformation of the healthcare system, the Middle East and North Africa region’s first HIE, Malaffi, had been in place since August 2019. Its role was to connect private and public facilities throughout the region, with 79 per cent of all hospitals in Abu Dhabi already being connected. Having such a system in place enabled the government to strengthen its response to the coronavirus.
Real-time, reliable access to information
Back in March, the DoH and Malaffi announced two solutions to tackle the pandemic. The first was to extend access to Malaffi for all facilities providing frontline care across the Emirate. Secondly, to provide a real-time database of every COVID test result.
As the platform was still young, not all facilities had been brought on board. However, the instruction was made to allow access to every facility across the Emirates, regardless of the onboarding status. This ensured that a database, with the results of every COVID-19 test taken in Abu Dhabi, was centralised and made available to its caregivers.
“This information was instantly accessible and in real-time, allowing fast, accurate and safe clinical decisions to be made,” says Atif Al Braiki, the Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Health Data Services, the operator of Malaffi. “Those on the front line not only had the most up-to-date information at their fingertips; they also had access to medical histories to ensure the best decisions about the most vulnerable patients were made.”
Intelligent decision support for policy makers
“Through the identification and tracking of every newly diagnosed COVID case and by centralising all the test results,” he continues, “Malaffi was able to support policy makers in making the most intelligent decisions during the crisis. Resources were allocated effectively and we were able to ensure better capacity utilisation and provide the very best coordination of care for the people of Abu Dhabi.”