Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital’s digital health transformation

Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital’s digital health transformation

“Leading, not following” is the reason Saudi Arabia’s Fakeeh Care is distinguished in the Middle East, according to CIO Dr. Nitin Verma.

Through refined processes and implementation of the best technologies, Fakeeh Care is paving the way for medical facilities across the region to create a more efficient, harmonious and satisfactory experience for patients, families and medical professionals alike.

Over the last six months, Dr Verma has transformed the groups’ attitudes towards high technology. His clinical background enables a perceptive understanding of the practical applications of technology, and for the past two decades he has been helping develop technology within the medical sector - from a time when very few clinicians had a hand in IT.

Now, under Dr Verma’s direction as Chief Information Officer, Fakeeh Care is “leading the healthcare digital transformation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Creating a user-friendly, multifaceted mobile application for its patients, available in both English and Arabic, was a major breakthrough for Fakeeh Care. While other hospitals in Saudi Arabia have also developed apps to help their customers with their treatment journey, Fakeeh Care  mobile application stands out with its award-winning design.

The mobile app incorporates features such as a ChatBot to handle queries, a platform for patients to access lab results, radiology results, medication prescriptions, and a sophisticated online billing platform which eases queueing times and stress for patients after treatment.

As Fakeeh Care sees anywhere between 5000 and 8000 outpatients every day, with over a quarter travelling hundreds of kilometres to the hospital, a revolutionary component of the app is an online consultation platform. A virtual follow-up consultation for outpatients who have had tests at the healthcare facilities saves time, stress and money, as they can receive the required aftercare without having to return to the hospital.

Alongside medication prescription details being available within the app, Fakeeh Care has also developed a feature which sets reminders for patients to take their medication. “This has enhanced compliance with the medication, resulting in an improved clinical outcome,” says Dr. Verma.

In a clinical setting, AI and robotics are being utilised by departments within the hospital to improve accuracy, negate human error, and enhance operational efficiency.

“Any radiology imaging which radiologists have to report on can be put through an AI solution which highlights the second section of the image,” Dr Verma says. “The AI enables a deeper insight into what is wrong with the image, and therefore what could be wrong with the patient.”

As a result of AI assistance, the total time taken to report on a radiology image at Fakeeh Care  has been reduced by 75%. This not only improves operational efficiency in radiology, but empowers radiologists to delve deeper into the abnormality identified by the AI and enhance patient care.

With any digital transformation, the right vendor and supply chain relationships are important – but Fakeeh Care recognises the extra responsibility demanded of it as a medical care provider. “Fakeeh Care has a policy that we work with our strategic vendor in a partnership, not in a client-vendor relationship,” says Dr. Verma.

One such partner of Fakeeh Care is Siemens. Siemens’ solution is used extensively in the hospital’s radiology department, which is seeing a vast digital transformation.

“Our preference is always to work with vendors who can work as a partner in our transformation, and we are working with multiple strategic vendors to realise our vision. There are very few which I could call ‘strategy partners’, but Siemens is one such key partner in our digital health transformation,” Dr. Verma says.

Leading such a vast change in a matter of months, Dr Verma has been acutely aware of the importance of a comprehensive change management strategy. His approach is to lead a new culture from the top, starting with the hospital’s CEO. It is equally important to the change management strategy that change is also led from the bottom, engaging employees at every level early on in the process.

“With a committee and a well-aligned group of executives strongly supported by the top management, alongside engagement with employees at lower levels, you can ensure the strategy is led cohesively,” Dr. Verma says.

On the ‘front line’, group staff who will be hands-on with the new technology are given comprehensive but concise training. This training includes instructional videos to reduce the need for manually requesting IT help for minor issues, among other methods of making the learning curve for staff as short and accessible as possible.

At Fakeeh Care, the change management strategy combines a rational and emotional approach. “The leadership team will often make the case for the major change on the sole basis of a strategic business objective,” says Dr. Verma, “but these reasonings rarely reach the people in the middle and bottom staff layers emotionally.

“If you can combine your rational approach with an emotional approach, you can reach every layer of the organisation. Human beings respond to the call to action that engages their heart as well as their mind, and it makes them feel as if they are part of something great, something consequential.”

The last part of the change management strategy, Dr. Verma says, is to “engage, engage, engage.” Giving staff what they need to start using the applications, following up with them every 48-72 hours, and creating a manual or automated tool to see the practical utilisation of the technology increases uptake and satisfaction amongst all staff.

Digital transformation at DSFH is accelerated by the “visionary” leadership and “tech-savvy” CEO. The hospital’s founder and namesake, Dr Soliman Fakeeh, established the hospital in 1978 with advanced solutions and technology at its core. It was the first hospital in Saudi Arabia to have a CT scanner - revolutionary even mere decades ago.

The current President and Chairman of the Board, Dr Mazen S. Fakeeh, has enabled a corporate strategy which “never shies away from an investment in technology,” Dr. Verma says.

“When I present him the digital health strategy, his curiosity means he is open to any new technology as long as it meets the end goal: helping patients, clinicians and the group to bring more efficiency to medicine.”

Taking the group to the “next level” is at the core of Dr Verma’s digital health strategy, and IT was one of the key factors behind its journey to becoming “one of the most prestigious healthcare groups in Saudi Arabia today.”

Embracing the latest technological innovation not only from the Middle East, but from Europe, America and the rest of the world, and bringing them to the group at the earliest opportunity, means it is “not a follower in digital health transformation, but a leader in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The company’s president concludes: “Fakeeh Care strongly believes that digital transformation-enabled healthcare delivery is the way to move forward. Digital transformation has created a bridge between us and our patients enabling them to be engaged in their own care resulting in improved compliance and a better clinical outcome”.

Dr. Nitin Verma