Virtual reality to improve patient experience in health care

JEDDAH: Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-based three-dimensional imaging sequence that creates a world within a computer system, allowing users to interact with it via a display screen, usually mounted to the face.
Previously, VR had only really impacted the public through video games, but Eng. Faisal Ayman Ashour looked at it differently.
He saw it as a potential non-pharmacologic form of pain relief, by delivering enough sensory information to reduce patient anxiety, eliminating the need for sedatives.
Many hospitals around the world have started experimenting with it. A Calgary hospital recorded 75 percent reductions in discomfort monitoring patients using it, while another at Stanford in the US had similar results when using VR to distract children from receiving previously distressing procedures.
Ashour helped introduce VR to Saudi hospitals last year.
“I always believed every human has a purpose and a mission in this life, we all have talent within us, the challenge is how we develop such a talent. Not to reinvent the wheel and share someone else’s work, but to develop it. VR was invented for entertainment mostly, but such technology can enhance the patient’s quality of life at a low cost,” he said.
The target patients are children and those in palliative care, receiving procedures as simple as a vaccination, or as painful as resetting bones and applying casts.
“I’ve developed and gained more knowledge by merging engineering with medicine. I got my fellowship in medicine to speak the same language as physicians, to develop a solid medical simulation-training program in the Kingdom. Since 2016 I’ve developed several applications involving VR and alternative reality to help patients,” Ashour added.
VR technology in medicine has also been implemented in radiotherapy, CT scans, MRIs, physiotherapy and psychology. This progress hasn’t been without problems, however.
“Introducing such a new technology or concept to be used to replace a previous technique is challenging, especially in the medical field. Experiments must be completed before an idea can be distributed, that sometimes takes more than 10 years,” said Ashour.
“The idea was to engage engineers and physicians to introduce such a modern technology to enhance patient quality of life, and maximize cost efficiency. We have developed more than 10 virtual environments for both medical training purposes, and to improve medical outcomes.”


Saudi Arabia ranks among the highest in healthcare efficiency

RIYADH — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia scores among the highest in efficiency, as compared to the 16-country overall average, Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology, said in the first chapter of three 2018 Future Health Index (FHI), a research-based platform designed to help determine the readiness of 16 countries in addressing health challenges and building efficient and effective health systems released on Wednesday.

An efficiency score of 44.17 is particularly strong, rising over 17 points above the average, and coming in just after Singapore at 50.11, indicating healthcare spend is being effectively utilized in relevance to health outcomes.

According to the results, overall satisfaction with the healthcare system is 10 points above average on the index, with more room for growth. Healthcare professionals are more satisfied with the level of care offered, than the general population in Saudi Arabia (66.18 vs. 59.32). This is driven by their higher levels of trust in the healthcare system compared to the general population (80% vs. 62%).

Within the value measure, the only metric to fall below the 16-country average is access to healthcare, which is mainly caused by the below-average skilled healthcare professional density and the low number of hospital beds.

“The FHI index identifies and measures important healthcare system markers that will pave way into the future, integrating technologies across the health continuum. This will help in advancing the healthcare infrastructure and systems to move away from a volume-based measure of healthcare to a value-based one,” said Ozlem Fidanci, CEO of Philips MET region.

Value-based healthcare is the latest thinking in healthcare that describes a system that aims to increase access to care and improve patient outcomes at lower cost. Designed as people-centric, it is about providing the right care at the right time, in the right place and at the right level of cost. Five factors are used as indicators of success in a value-based healthcare system:

1. Access: Securing universal access to healthcare

2. Outcomes: Driving better healthcare outcomes

3. Costs: Reducing costs and waste

4. Satisfaction: Ensuring HCP satisfaction

5. Experience: Improving patient experience

The FHI analyzes data from across 16 countries, representing about half of the world’s population. This year it introduced the Value Measure, a new indicator of the value delivered by healthcare systems of developed and developing markets. Combining criteria associated with value-based healthcare:

• Access – how universal and affordable is access to healthcare?

• Satisfaction – to what extent does the general population and healthcare professionals see their healthcare system as trustworthy and effective?

• Efficiency – does the system produce positive outcomes at an optimum cost?

These criteria termed as the Value Measure in the index, provide a benchmark against which a healthcare system’s progress towards efficient and effective healthcare can be evaluated.

This methodology builds on the fast-growing consensus that the value-based healthcare model is the best approach to address the challenges posed by a combination of growing and aging populations with the rise of chronic diseases and healthcare costs.

The FHI primarily focuses on the crucial role that technologies for connected care and digital tools can play in delivering more integrated and sustainable healthcare in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s current state of data analytics indicates there is room for further implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools in the patient journey.

Saudi Arabia has made some investments in data collection; however, there is still a need for growth as the country falls below the 16-country average across data collection & analytics metrics. 92% of healthcare professionals and 75% the general population believe that technological integration would make the quality of care better.

Fidanci added: “The index results confirm the Kingdom’s e-health strategy is a pivotal pillar in the future for improving and managing people’s health. The FDI offers a meaningful measure that helps countries like the Kingdom to identify their immediate needs and readiness for artificial intelligence tools and similar to be a part of the patient journey.”

Source: www.saudigazette.com.


MOH-KSA -​Patient Experience Measurement Program report released

The Patient Experience Measurement Program, provided by the Ministry of Health (MOH), is one of the national transformation initiatives to improve patient experience and to achieve distinctive health care by the Assistant Agency for Planning and Organizational Excellence , in cooperation with Quality General Department, Patient Experience Centre, Vision Realization Office (VRO), and all healthcare service providers.
The program aims to enable beneficiaries (patients and their families) to engage in quality improvement by measuring their satisfaction with various health services in MOH’s facilities through surveys designed for each visit separately. It features a number of hospitals, specialized centers, primary health care centers, blood banks,  tobacco cessation centers, premarital screening centers, 937-Service Center and other therapy visits. The program extends the scope of operations to cover all MOH’s facilities.

Ministry of Health -KSA works with an independent third party (Health.LinksPress Ganey), to manage surveys and to issue the program-related reports. Thus, there is no bias in measurement or results across MOH’s facilities.

Click  MOH PXM-2018-10 to download the detailed report released in October 2018.


Medical Tech Firms Boom In GCC As Healthcare Spend Surges

With a rise in healthcare expenditure, business opportunities for medical technology firms are abound in the Middle East.

Though healthcare has largely been a neglected area among regional governments, events like the Arab Spring and rapidly rising population are changing the face of the industry.

Public and private sector investment into the Middle East’s healthcare sector is estimated to touch $150 billion by 2016, according to data compiled by Zawya.

“We believe the market grew by eight per cent last year,” said Maher Abouzeid, president and CEO of GE Healthcare in Middle East and Pakistan.

“If you look at the GDP spent on healthcare, it is between three to four per cent, which is less but at least we are moving away from 2.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent that was spent previously by governments.”

Though healthcare expenditure still falls below desired levels, Abouzeid said that there has been a serious effort from Ministries of Health across the region to improve the quality of healthcare.

But as governments and healthcare providers step up investment, market demand has also undergone significant change.

“We need to provide instruments that drive clinical excellence, enhance patient experience and provide economic value,” said Diederik Zeven, vice president of Philips Healthcare Middle East and Turkey.

Abouzeid said that the rising population is raising the bar for medical technology companies investing in the region.

“We need to structure our technology to meet the new demand. [Goverments] need machines that secure patient comfort, secure clinical confidence, machines that are smart and improve access to healthcare in rural areas that don’t have qualified healthcare workers,” said Abouzeid.

“We are seeing more of a demand for solutions rather than technology because the [healthcare] demand is surging and so they need somebody to provide them with complete turnkey solutions.”

However, as conglomerates such as GE and Philips deal with changing demand from healthcare providers, many niche firms are moving into the region targeting market gaps.

Medtronics, a firm that specialises in implantable devices and therapies, is shifting its regional headquarters to Dubai as it looks to cash in on the Gulf’s healthcare boom.

The medical technology company, which provides therapies to treat various lifestyle diseases, is upbeat about carving a space for itself in the Middle East market among major players.

“When we look at the markets in the region, the Middle East is a big growth region for us,” said Omar Ishrak, chairman and the CEO of Medtronics.

“The timing now is very good for us since lot of the infrastructure is just built and the capacity needs to be utilised so we consider that as a big opportunity.”

Medtronics is also looking to open up a training facility in Dubai after identifying a market gap for skilled professionals in the region.

The new academy will offer training courses to healthcare practitioners in order to improve the knowledge and skills of physicians in the areas of cardiac and vascular therapies as well as spine surgery.

“By our own estimation, in all emerging markets – which include India, China, Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East and parts of central Europe – we find that if our existing therapies are adopted just like in developed market – we have a $5 billion a year opportunity,” said Ishrak.

“That is massive, and the Middle East market must be close to around $1 billion.”

Source: Gulf Business



General / Ministry of Health: Satisfaction rate of beneficiaries of health services 69.7% in the third quarter 2018

The Ministry of Health announced the results of the program measuring the satisfaction of the services provided to them for the third quarter of 2018, with a satisfaction rate of 69.7%. 
More than 60,000 subscribers and their families completed the questionnaire in the third quarter of 2018 about their access to health services, the ministry said. 
She explained that all areas of the Kingdom were covered by 17 health services, including hospitals (outpatient clinics, hypnotherapy and emergency), primary health care centers, anti-smoking clinics, specialized clinics for the heart, kidneys, tumors, diabetes and care. And the specialized dental clinic, pointing to the provision of services soon in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, mental health hospitals, as well as paid treatment. 
“Health” launched the program “measuring the patient’s experience” beginning in 2018, in order to enable beneficiaries of patients and their families to participate in the evaluation of the services provided to them after each visit to health facilities. 
The program works according to international scientific mechanisms in methods of measuring the satisfaction of beneficiaries to health services through a third party, in order to ensure the impartiality of the results and credibility, through a company specialized in this field, allowing the “health” compared to regional and global services, to help them keep up with progress In patient-based health services and needs, reflecting their access to the highest quality health services. 
This program is supported by a number of health professionals in collaboration with stakeholders to identify and analyze the weaknesses in the health services provided in the various health facilities and to study them, and to develop mechanisms to improve them and develop them continuously. 

Source: Saudi Press Agency


Saudi wealth fund said to plan healthcare investments

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is planning investments in the kingdom’s private healthcare services and hospitals as it seeks to modernize domestic infrastructure, people familiar with the matter said.

The Public Investment Fund may appoint an adviser in the near future to help identify investment opportunities, the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

The plan may require billions of dollars, though no final decisions have been made, they said. It could involve investments in existing health-care companies or partnering with foreign companies looking to establish operations in the kingdom, the people said.

“The Public Investment Fund regularly explores potential investment opportunities to support portfolio diversification efforts, but does not comment on specific discussions or activities,” a spokesman for the fund said.

Turning Saudi Arabia into a regional centre for health care is one of the objectives outlined in PIF’s 2020 strategy document, published last year. That includes plans to establish “medical cities” and develop a local pharmaceutical and medical devices industry to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on imports.

PIF isn’t the only government-controlled fund planning to invest in the sector. Hassana Investment Co is partnering with London-listed NMC Health to invest as much as 6 billion riyals ($1.6 billion) in the kingdom’s health-care industry, they said last month.

The health plan reflects one aspect of PIF’s role in the kingdom’s efforts to diversify away from oil and transform its economy. The wealth fund is also taking stakes in firms such as Tesla Inc and Uber Technologies Inc, and has made an initial $45 billion commitment to SoftBank Group Corp’s behemoth Vision Fund.

In addition to its headline-grabbing investments around the globe, the kingdom’s wealth fund holds about $133 billion of assets in its own publicly traded companies, including stakes in Saudi Basic Industries Corp, Saudi Telecom Co and National Commercial Bank.

PIF is set to raise about $70 billion from a planned sale of a stake in chemical producer Sabic to Saudi Arabian Oil Co, another state-controlled entity.

Source: Arabian Business



How data will dramatically change healthcare

Today’s world is producing a staggering amount of information. In the last few years, we’ve seen the processing power to harness this data finally begin to catch up.

Phones are more powerful than computers were just a couple of decades ago, and with internet usage now widespread around the world, we have constant access to information we couldn’t have dreamed of just a few short years ago.

We have also never been more willing to share personal information with others, resulting in even the most traditional of industries being forced to look at their practices and adapt for the new world we live in.

It’s only natural that healthcare would follow suit. While healthcare has constantly tried to adopt new techniques and develop medicines to deal with diseases, the way we administer these treatments had seen relatively little change.

Patients still wait endlessly to see their doctors, who then proceed to prick and prod them for various tests. Doctors have always had to rely on the memory (and to some extent, the honesty) of their patients, and patients in turn have had almost no control over their own medical data.

But smarter technology is changing all that in ways we couldn’t imagine, and it boils down to one reason: data.

Information overload
Technology is now being wielded in innovative ways to improve the overall experience for patients and doctors alike. Data is at the heart of this, allowing healthcare providers to simplify and even enhance the patient’s experience while also helping doctors improve the quality of service they can provide, with better outcomes.

With smartphones and wearables, patients are now tracking and sharing more medically relevant information than ever before. This rise of smarter devices will herald a new age of data collection and swifter solutions.

Activity-tracking devices and apps, for instance, now monitor body vitals, and have become almost status symbols, with the entire process of maintaining a healthy lifestyle even becoming gamified. Insurance providers have started to leverage this trend, too, with insurers offering heavily discounted smart watches to improve policyholders’ heath monitoring and activity.

It is predicted that by 2020, the number of connected wearable devices worldwide will reach a staggering 830 million, which is up from the 325 million devices currently in use, according to Statista. In the UAE alone, the wearable sensors market is expected to increase to almost AED14.6m by the end of this year.

Data and the health of the population
The more access given to individual information, the easier it will be to track health trends on a larger level. This extreme granularity of data will help us get a more holistic picture of the population, understanding their habits, lifestyle and overall health.

Smarter AI-enabled computers could then leverage that data to identify key trends and triggers, allowing for healthcare providers to be more proactive in their treatments. They would also allow hospitals to better plan and manage the patient experience, resulting in shorter wait-times and more efficient treatment.

As an example of how access to information can help better healthcare, Omada Health, a digital therapeutics firm, leveraged digital technology to help tackle diabetes. Some 120,000 pre-diabetics participated in a programme to test their prevention initiative. Omada created a 16-week online behavioural-counselling curriculum that included modules on nutrition and physical activity, as well as strategies to minimise stress.

The course was extremely effective because of the focus on digitising standard diabetes prevention programmes, ensuring that the experience was patient-centric and making sure to focus on delivering results.

Data and better tools
Technology has also given us better tools. For instance, surgery robots are now becoming more common, assisting doctors with delicate operations and reducing the recovery time of patients. In fact, robot-assisted surgery is making such major steps forward that the industry is expected to have an annual value of $40bn by 2026.

Improved technology has also allowed doctors to analyse sweat for molecular biomarkers, replacing the need for more invasive blood tests.

With smarter AI and an increasing amount of data, there is an increase in the quality of treatment available. Earlier this year, a team of researchers from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford developed an AI diagnostics system that is more accurate than doctors at diagnosing heart disease. Not only could innovations like these save more lives, they could also considerably reduce costs. By reducing inefficiencies and excessive testing, more money could be spent on delivering better, and earlier, treatment.

The UAE is also venturing into a new space – quite literally. Earlier this year, during Arab Health 2018, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced its plans to build the first Emirates Space Hospital to treat astronauts using nanotechnology. Aligned to the UAE Centennial 2071 and the National Space Programme, this new space hospital is the ideal example of the future of telemedicine.

What this means for you
It’s clear that the potential for a new healthcare system is immense. However, mainstream adoption is still a few years away, and these services may stay out of reach of the masses until we hit economies of scale. However, as individuals, we can still do our bit. Leveraging commercial apps and devices to get a better understanding of our behaviour could help us make healthier decisions regarding our diet and activity programmes.

You can also choose a healthcare provider that focuses on putting the patient experience first, ensuring that you have access to innovative solutions that give you more control over your treatment. A good provider can also collect your data and structure it regularly, ensuring that they are able to analyse it effectively, translating it to better treatment for you and your family.

With technology rapidly developing, it’s only a matter of time before we have a golden age of healthcare. By making more informed decisions today, we can help to usher in a better tomorrow sooner rather than later.

Source: Arabian Business


How hospitals are integrating augmented reality and other tech to improve the patient experience

New, emerging technologies are turning patients into savvy healthcare consumers with higher expectations around the services they receive. From wearables to telemedicine, virtual and augmented reality, 3D imaging, and artificial intelligence, patients are increasingly drawn to cutting-edge experiences, similar to what they experience in their everyday lives as consumers.

Healthcare organizations are taking notice. More and more, they are beginning to understand that one of the best ways of getting new patients and managing current patients is to offer and incorporate innovative and emerging technology within their practice – what would be seen in most business practices as adding value.

Augmented and virtual reality

One organization pushing the boundaries of emerging technology in healthcare is the Cleveland Clinic, which is working on a project that aims to revolutionize anatomical education through augmented and virtual reality (AR / VR). Andrew Moan, General Manager for Virtual and Augmented Reality Medical Devices at the Cleveland Clinic, explained the project’s significance.

“The challenge with traditional cadaver-based learning is that cadavers may not be representative of a particular patient case. Some countries don’t even authorize the use of cadavers, so it’s not an efficient way to learn,” he said.

“Now, imagine if you could have a 3D representation of a heart, for instance, not only to look at, but also to interact with. We’re taking the standard medical syllabus and converting it into a reference library for creating 3D assets, so that students can experience an environment that they can swipe around and explore on a range of devices, whether it’s mobile, PC or VR.”

Not only can this provide a standardized way for medical professionals to understand the human body, it also has the potential to transform patient education with the ability to show patients their condition and exactly what is going on inside their bodies.

Moan highlighted the value of machine learning in creating these experiences, through its ability to automate the identification of features like bones and veins in a CT scan, in order to create a 3D model. He believes that eventually, we will reach a point where artificial intelligence can be applied to make decisions based on these models – potentially in the future, automating diagnoses.

In addition to education, the Cleveland Clinic is also looking at the patient experience as another area that can be transformed through VR. He pointed to pediatrics in particular, where VR could be used as a tool to transport children away from frightening medical environments.

Thinking ahead of the technology curve

As technologies continue to advance, healthcare organizations will need to be aware of new innovations, and new ways to use and integrate them. One of the ways that organizations such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center are doing this is by creating patient technology advisory boards.

Ryzell McKinney, Director of Access Technology for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said it’s all about patient preference.

“We ask the members of our patient technology advisory board what type of technology they would like to see implemented into their care, and it’s opened up all kinds of considerations for new implementations.”

He noted that telehealth is an area that the medical center is working toward. “For patients that don’t want to drive long distances to our facilities, we want to be able to meet them wherever they are,” McKinney said. “We’re also doing some research in artificial intelligence as a result. We’re not sure where we’ll land yet in terms of implementation, but there will likely be something there.”

Integration challenges

In addition to evaluating future opportunities and applications for emerging technology, it’s just as important to consider new sets of challenges that these technologies will introduce.

According to Ed Martin, Technology Director with the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation, data interoperability, data liquidity and privacy controls are a few major concerns that healthcare providers must focus on addressing.

“Unlike a consumer service like Amazon, which knows its users’ purchase history and general interests, the free flow of health data is not so easy to acquire,” Martin said. “Because people get their healthcare from so many different places, it’s created a data interoperability problem that this industry needs to solve.”

He added that it’s also critical to consider privacy issues.

“Whatever solutions we roll out, we need to make sure that we are able to maintain strict privacy controls. Unlocking the future of healthcare innovation will require a foundation of data interoperability and data liquidity, but in setting that data free, we need to strike a balance with proper data control.”

At the rate that technology is emerging, evolving and driving new expectations within our everyday lives, its opportunities for the healthcare industry are just as powerful. Providers must start planning ahead for them, today.

Healthcare has fallen behind other industries when it comes to delivering services in ways consumers expect: proactively, seamlessly and using unique personalized methods. The good news is that it is on its way to catching up.

Source: Medcity News



Current GCC healthcare projects worth over $60bn

The total value of 707 GCC healthcare projects is over $60.9 billion as of January, according to BNC Network’s latest GCC construction intelligence report.

According to the report, 445 projects collectively worth $51.9 billion are hospital projects, while the other 262 projects – worth $9 billion – are medical clinics or research centres.

Of the total projects 264 (worth $24.7 billion) are under construction, while 227 projects worth $12.7 billion are in the design and pipelines stages. Another 75 projects with a combined estimated value of $1.76 billion are in tender.

Of the entire GCC urban construction sector, the report estimates that healthcare industry projects constitute 4 percent of all active projects, and 5 percent of the total value.

In Q4 2017, eight healthcare contracts with a combined value of $813.9 million were awarded in the GCC, a 33 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2016.

“Mandatory health insurance scheme, that is gradually bringing the entire population of the GCC under medical insurance cover is driving investment in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other healthcare facilities,” Avin Gidwani, CEO of BNC Network, said. “With higher oil price, the GCC will see increased investment in infrastructure, housing and these activities will create new employment that will increase demand for more healthcare projects.

Historically, the GCC healthcare sector was driven by the public sector hospitals that offered subsidised medical care and almost free medicines,” he added. “However, there has been a fundamental shift in the healthcare system, where the employers are now being made responsible for the employees’ medical care and welfare. This necessitated the introduction of the mandatory health insurance schemes and created a demand for increased number of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.”

In December, the number of healthcare projects in the GCC decreased by 1 percent as compared to November, with the total estimate value falling by 2 percent.

Additionally, six healthcare projects with a collective estimated value of $600.5 million were completed throughout the course of December.

Source: Arabian Business