In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Middle East, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) in cooperation with Pfizer Gulf, has launched the ‘Naselkom’ initiative aimed at providing treatment services for rheumatology and arthritis using the telemedicine system. The initiative is part of MOHAP’s efforts in providing innovative treatment methods in line with the latest technological developments aimed at improving the delivery of healthcare. By ensuring a safer follow-up treatment plan and reducing the waiting period for patients, the new initiative contributes to the improvement of patient experience and benefit from care and specialized service, thereby ensuring patient happiness and satisfaction.
MOHAP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Pfizer for the setup of an oversight committee for the implementation of the initiative, which will include the launch of mobile clinics equipped with ultrasound equipment and modern laboratory for blood testing and inflammation to promote early diagnosis of rheumatic diseases. The project also includes the introduction of telemedicine clinics in specialty and community hospitals aimed at addressing distance issues between patients and medical consultants, thereby ensuring patients’ happiness as it helps them do away with travel concerns when seeking treatment, while also providing advanced facilities for medical staff.
Dr. Yousif Mohammed Al Serkal, Assistant Undersecretary for Hospitals Sector at MOHAP, said: “The initiative seeks to improve the treatment provided by specialty rheumatology centers in the UAE in cooperation with our strategic partners to improve patient’s health and reduce complications, while also ensuring efficient management of human resources. This is the first in the Middle East which comes in line with the Ministry's plan to fully integrate artificial intelligence into medical services in line with the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis by 2021, as well as within the goals of UAE Centennial 2071 to transform healthcare provisions. This is part of the Ministry's strategy to provide comprehensive and innovative healthcare services in a fair way, and to build quality, health, and safety systems according to international standards, and to enhance the value of the patient as he is our focus and care.”
He added: “We currently have five specialty clinics in Al Qassimi, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, Obaidullah and Al Baraha Hospitals. The telemedicine system will be opened in specialized clinics for the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis to reduce waiting period and treatment as soon as possible, and follow-up of the patient according to the treatment plan which will help reduce the complications resulting from these diseases.”
Dr. Kalthoum Al Balushi, Director of the Hospitals Department, explained that the innovative treatment will be implemented in three main stages, which include spreading awareness of rheumatism to patients and technical staff through lectures and workshops for doctors and patients. The second phase includes diagnosis and early detection through mobile clinics and the third phase will focus on follow-up care through telemedicine between referral hospitals and public hospitals.
Al Balushi noted that the Ministry has organized several awareness workshops for community members concerning rheumatic diseases and early detection targeting 30 beneficiaries and several training workshops for more than 100 doctors and service providers working in hospitals and health centers in the presence of rheumatologists and experts in the field. The workshops showcased the latest developments in the field of medical care for patients with rheumatism aimed at early detection and prevention, as well as procedures for early examination, diagnosis, and symptoms necessary for the patient to be nominated for a follow up the consultation with a specialist.
The mobile clinics will be launched in community hospitals, primary care centers, and the Physiotherapy Center in Ras Al Khaimah in 2018. These clinics will provide consultation and laboratory services for early diagnosis, supported by intelligent telemedicine devices to follow up with patients, reduce waiting period and distances, to improve patients’ experience.
Rheumatism is not confined to the elderly as it also affects those who are between 18 to 45 years old and is more common in women than men. Rheumatism is classified as an autoimmune disease which may trigger Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) in case of skin attack. It may also lead to rheumatoid disease when the disease attacks body joints. The main cause of infection is still unknown, but the genetic factor represents 4 to 6 percent.