Healthcare providers usually record patient medical information in a linear patient file or on their internal electronic medical record (EMR) system, available only within the same organisation; however, this kind of record-keeping does not necessarily provide a holistic view of a patient’s medical history or treatment chronology. What’s more, it is unable to present health indicators on a broader scale across a population. In the absence of this kind of centralised real-time information, it is more challenging for the government to drive and implement critical health directives.
Unified health information
Created as a public-private partnership between the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DOH) and Injazat Data Systems, Malaffi, which means ‘my file’ in Arabic, is the region’s first Health Information Exchange platform.
“The DOH has initiated Malaffi as the key component in the digital transformation of the healthcare system in Abu Dhabi, and to improve the healthcare quality and patient outcomes”, explains Atif Al Braiki, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Health Data Services.
Through Malaffi, healthcare professionals in Abu Dhabi have access to patients’ longitudinal medical files. To date, Malaffi stores more than 81 million unique clinical records and provides access to the platform to over 24,500 end-users, from more than 500 facilities. The list of connected facilities currently includes all the big healthcare groups in Abu Dhabi, like Abu Dhabi Healthcare Services Company (SEHA), Mediclinic, Mubadala Healthcare, United Eastern Medical Services, Capital Health, NMC Healthcare and VPS Healthcare, and the majority of the stand-alone hospitals. Malaffi has recently marked a milestone by starting to connect the medical centres and clinics.
“With many more providers in the onboarding pipeline, through our secure and safe digital platform, we are aiming to connect all public and private healthcare providers in Abu Dhabi,” he continues. “Ultimately, clinicians will have more information about their patients, enabling them to improve the delivery of healthcare”, states Mr. Al Braiki.
Allowing the real-time exchange of patient data, the centralised platform streamlines the unification of the medical records. Having access to this information simplifies care coordination and transition of care between different healthcare providers.
“Coordination of care is ever more critical as doctors are facing challenges due to the increasing incidence of chronic and communicable diseases, as well as the growing and ageing population,” says Mr. Al Braiki. Local trends also show that patients visit multiple doctors in different healthcare facilities, many times for the same problem. This often results in unnecessary duplication of services, varying standards of care and suboptimal patient experience leading to significant strain on the healthcare system, in addition to fuelling the rising costs of care.
“By having access to the patients’ Malaffi file, healthcare professionals have access to data about previous patients’ visits, recorded allergies, diagnoses, chronic conditions, laboratory results, and radiology reports. This is invaluable for the making of quicker, more accurate and safer clinical decisions, as well as being convenient for patients, such as the elderly, who do not always necessarily remember details from their medical history”, he elaborates.
Connected healthcare in action
“Connecting healthcare has never been more urgent and important than now, when faced with the COVID-19 pandemic”, Mr. Al Braiki notes.
Patients with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms from COVID-19. By having access to real-time test results and the relevant information from their medical history, front-line medical workers are empowered to make quicker and more effective first-response and treatment decisions, when a patient is in the ER for urgent care for example. To strengthen the response to the pandemic, Malaffi has allowed urgent access to its platform for providers that are not yet connected to Malaffi and need to have access to this information to treat COVID-19 patients.
Public health policies
In addition to improving patient safety and overall experience, Malaffi also helps the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi by providing invaluable population health information. With these vital statistics, the government can monitor the quality of healthcare in the emirate, as well as drive important health policies.
The data in the platform also helps identify public health risks and gives an effective means to measure the emirate’s emergency preparedness and response management. “As part of the COVID-19 response efforts, building on the advanced platform, Malaffi centralised the COVID-19 test results from all testing sites in Abu Dhabi. This enables the identification and tracing of positive cases, and real-time reporting by providing key pandemic indicators, which are crucial for the adequate response”, Mr. Al Braiki adds.
With a unified HIE platform, certainly, come questions about cyber security and data integrity. With a background in digital tech, Mr. Al Braiki highlights the importance of secure data and patient privileges.
“For us at Malaffi, patient care and patient privacy go hand in hand. Malaffi enables the safe and secure exchange of patient data between authorised users only. Certified and approved users from facilities, with legal contracts with Malaffi, can access a patient’s Malaffi file”, he says. “All healthcare facilities have to abide by Malaffi’s strict privacy and security policies, and comply with the relevant Abu Dhabi laws”, he elaborates.
Additionally, the DOH is in talks with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Dubai Health Authority to create a parallel system to centralise patient information across the entire country. Mr. Al Braiki adds that efforts are underway to launch an app to give patients access to their Malaffi file, which will empower them to better engage in managing their health.
“Looking ahead, as a digital centralised data platform, Malaffi paves the way for the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve further care coordination and public health management in Abu Dhabi”, Mr. Al Braiki concluded.