Middle East: Focus on quality

 

JCI's new Middle East managing director Ashraf Ismail argues globalisation and the availability of information via the Internet, mean that improving healthcare quality and safety is no longer optional for hospitals.

"If healthcare quality is not adequate in the hospital, patients will look around for better quality. If they do not improve quality and safety, they will lose their business. Accreditation is an excellent framework that helps organizations to achieve their quality goals in a systematic, measurable way. Achieving JCI accreditation also provides the international recognition to organisations for their commitment to quality and safety."

Ismail admits that the healthcare industry in the Middle East has a long way to go and accredited facilities in the region still represent a very small percentage of all hospitals. “There is no way to develop business in healthcare without improving quality and safety. Quality increases market share as hospitals build on their reputation. To build their reputation, hospitals must put customers first and consider patient safety and quality."

Qatar’s health minister, Sheikha Ghalia bint Mohammed Al Thani, said the government is committed to launching one new hospital every year until 2011 at the Hamad Medical City, the state-backed medical complex being built on the site of the athlete's village used during the 2006 Asian Games. “ The city will include a paediatric hospital and a neurology hospital. The Women's Hospital will be shifted to the city. By 2011, Hamad Medical City will be a reality."

Qatar's Ministry of Health aims to boost the quality of health care on offer at public and private sector hospitals. It has launched the country’s first healthcare quality department that will assess the level of services provided by all healthcare providers. Qatar has created a new watchdog to look after health services provided by both the government and the private sector in the Gulf state. Known as the Supreme Council for Health, it has been empowered to fix the tariff of medical services provided by the state as well as private operators and decide on the pricing of medicines. This is in response to some hospitals overcharging patients in general and medical tourists in particular.

The Saudi Arabian government has recognised that it cannot finance a sustainable healthcare sector. It seeks to restructure the management of the existing 218 government hospitals into private enterprises. Any additional hospitals or clinics built will be private. The Saudi Ministry of Health authorities are progressing toward regulating medical services instead of financing the provision of healthcare. It is believed that eventually, this will reverse the trend for patients to travel abroad for treatment, as privatisation will raise the quality of medical care offered.

Several Middle East countries are now encouraging hospitals to achieve international accreditation with either JCI, Australian Council of Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) or Accreditation Canada International. Accreditation Canada International has eight approved hospitals in the Middle East with two seeing approval. ACHSI has six accredited and three seeking approval, while JCI has 53 approved and at least one seeking approval. Middle East states have two reasons for wanting international accreditation, the main one is to convince doubting locals that they do not need to go abroad for quality care, the secondary one being to seek a share of the global medical tourism business.

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