Middle East 2.0 – Empowering workforce development in digital healthcare

Middle East 2.0 – Empowering workforce development in digital healthcare

Healthcare staff have never played such a fundamental role as they have now in the throes of a global health crisis. They have been critical in providing resilient and holistic patient-centred care, which has highlighted the value in preparing the healthcare workforce for rapid transformational change. One, which is the shift to community-based care, is currently experiencing exponential growth and acceptance globally. From this, a more patient-centred healthcare landscape is emerging, making it vital that staff and patients are educated and supported to engage fully in the digital adoption of out of hospital care.

Dr Osama ElHassan is a health informatics specialist at Dubai Health Authority. He is also concurrently the vice president of the UAE Health Informatics Society and a co-founder & coordinator of the GCC Taskforce on Workforce Development in Digital Healthcare (ZIMAM), where he is at the forefront of driving digital healthcare workforce initiatives and workshops in the GCC region and is an impassioned advocate for workforce development for the younger population.

“ZIMAM is a non-for-profit initiative that was established in 2016 by a number of highly recognised eHealth professionals and educators across the GCC countries,” explains Dr ElHassan.

“Some of the co-founders were representing also key eHealth professionals’ associations such as SAHI, SHIMA and EHIS. ZIMAM’s vision is to achieve a sustainable digital health ecosystem in which local eHealth workforce is empowered and taking the lead.”

Dr ElHassan will be speaking at the session, ‘Extending Health and Care beyond Hospital Walls: Preparing clinicians & Patients for Community-Based Care’, at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 Middle East Conference on 2 December. 

Supporting community-based care

A range of new digital platforms and tools have been put in place in the GCC and MENA regions to support the uptake of community-based care across the continuum. ElHassan discusses how the landscape of community-based care has adapted during COVID-19: “I think that the pandemic was an eye-opener on the importance of digital transformation and digital workforce to maximise the healthcare outcomes of community-based care.

“We will witness a prevalence of consumer and patient-driven digital healthcare solutions that integrate seamlessly with core healthcare systems via streamlined GUIs and standardise open APIs to provide compostable and diversified healthcare services.”

For clinicians to be best prepared for the shift, ElHassan suggests: “We should start to embed clinical informatics and information competencies with medical schools’ curricula and provide certification programs for the current workforce that expedite upskilling and cross-skilling.”

GCC healthcare workforce initiatives

Looking specifically at the Gulf countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is set to pave the way for digital transformation through its national Vision 2030 project, primarily by enabling the culture of innovation in the work environment.

On the national strategies currently being rolled-out in the Saudi digital health industry, ElHassan said: “I witnessed with admiration the great work done by CCHI in preparing the next generation of Saudi Medical Coders through a fruitful partnership with key players in the RCM market in addition to local and international HIM professionals’ associations.” 

“I can’t also ignore the great initiative that SCHCS is contemplating in collaboration with a group of top eHealth educators and professionals to develop the Saudi Health Informatics competency-based framework,” adds ElHassan.

Across the globe, many countries are fast-tracking digital transformation as a national priority, as it continues to play a fundamental role in shaping the way governments are adapting to new opportunities and models of healthcare.

According to a Deloitte report on national transformation in the Middle East, GCC countries are making the move to build on international best practice and leverage opportunities to transform into digital models, setting a strong example for the delivery of innovative services. 

“The workforce development initiatives in the Kingdom are actually setting examples for other countries, especially in the MENA and GCC regions,” concedes ElHassan.

“Notwithstanding the great achievements in recent years on empowering young and highly educated talents in general and females in particular to steer the remarkable digital health transformation wave, the current status of non-for-profit workforce development initiatives, still leaves rooms for improvements.

“I think that we should learn from interesting international experiments such as the NHS Digital Academy in the UK and the certification programs developed by HISA in Australia.”

You can find out more about the HIMSS & Health 2.0 Middle East Conference and learn more about the latest news and developments from the event here.

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