As part of its mission to foster collaboration between healthcare ecosystems throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), HIMSS’s Middle East Community for Healthcare Professionals stands out as one of the organisation’s most dynamic groups. First launched in November 2021, this regional chapter serves as a platform for thought leaders from the GCC and wider MENA to unite and explore cutting-edge advancements in healthcare IT.
During a recent exclusive evening on the sidelines of the 6th GCC eHealth Workforce Development Conference (eHWDC 2023), the community unveiled its goals for the new year, with plans to increase its membership across the territory.
Currently connecting health IT and other healthcare professionals from countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, amongst others, the group focuses on peer-to-peer networking, problem-solving, education, and knowledge exchange.
“This is the beauty of being in the community; nobody has everything, nobody has all the knowledge. Everybody brings something unique to the table. It’s this exchange of these unique ideas that really benefits everybody.”
Dr. Tamara Sunbul, Medical Director of Clinical Informatics at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare KSA and Chair of the HIMSS Middle East Community
“We all share the same interest in healthcare IT, and we come together to see how we can support each other and advance healthcare IT in the Middle East,” says Dr. Tamara Sunbul, Medical Director of Clinical Informatics at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare KSA and Chair of the HIMSS Middle East Community. “We also connect with other HIMSS communities across the globe, support HIMSS at their conferences, with accreditations, training sessions, etc.
“This is the beauty of being in the community; nobody has everything, nobody has all the knowledge. Everybody brings something unique to the table. It’s this exchange of these unique ideas that really benefits everybody. And [this is what] keeps on making them come back again and again.”
HIMSS MIDDLE EAST COMMUNITY GOALS
At the networking evening, Professor Mahmood Adil, Ministerial Advisor for the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar – and Member of HIMSS’s EMEA Advisory Board – outlined the current key goals of the community. He elaborated on how the steering committee actively identifies pain points, analyses trends, and outlines national eHealth and digital health priorities with the aim to “bridge the innovation gap in healthcare within the region”.
At the top of the agenda is connecting the region to global efforts led by HIMSS and its partner organisations, as well as sharing insights with members to help them deliver better healthcare through IT. Other goals include actively promoting digital health careers and collaborative care models; fostering a region-wide commitment to digital health transformation; achieving high EMR, digital and data adaptation; and participating in conferences and events.
Dr. Sunbul elaborates: “[We can look at how] more privileged countries can support the other countries in terms of education, sharing of best practices, or what they’ve learned over their journey. Because if one of us makes a mistake, we shouldn’t make it twice, right? We should learn from each other. And it’s the same thing for if we did something really good, we should also share that because that’s how we get better.”
Top topics of discussion amongst members recently have included health information exchange (HIE) systems and overall digital maturity.
“For example, the UAE is very well advanced with its HIE, while Saudi Arabia just launched its own [NPHIES], so it’s a case of sharing their experiences – what went right, what went wrong – so we don’t repeat those mistakes.”
Other standout areas, Dr. Sunbul states, include digital health solutions, revenue cycle management, and population health programmes.
“We [also just] started discussing two areas that I think our community can add value to; the first is digital maturity – not just EMRs – there’s also analytics maturity, a supply chain CISCOM, community outcome, etc.,” she says. “Some of the countries are actually adding [these] to their required certifications and even to reimbursements for their hospitals.
“The second thing we also talked about is the importance of benchmarking across the whole Middle East area and how we always have to go with non-Middle East benchmarks. We have started brainstorming on this. Of course, it starts with all the countries coming together and agreeing on a data dictionary.”
HOW TO JOIN
With plans to create special interest groups, the HIMSS Middle East Community is now welcoming new members to take part in the group’s next chapter. Professionals from across the ecosystem – public and private organisations, patient advocates, non-government payers, and non-traditional providers such as pharmacies – are welcome to apply.
There are plenty of advantages to joining for individual professional development, including meeting with local and government entities, advising on healthcare IT topics, submitting educational proposals for HIMSS virtual conferences and the HIMSS Global Conference, and serving as moderators or subject matter experts for HIMSS events.
“We’re trying to get more people, a more diverse group to make sure that we represent the whole region,” says Dr. Sunbul. “We also want to get some more leaders in place who can actually take on some activities, or at least encourage people from their organisations to join. They’re going to help us form special interest groups going forward.”
The ultimate dream for the HIMSS ME Community, concludes Dr. Sunbul, is wider knowledge sharing.
“What I wish for is that we have a really active steering committee with really active members. My dream is for [those special interest work groups] to become self-sufficient with its own rotating membership, and for them to start producing content, such as white papers and case studies. We’d love to hear from them in our conferences, for them to come and tell us what they’ve learned and put together over the year.”