Advances in medical technology: Improving care and reducing costs through innovation

Technology-driven medical care is a promising area for growth in the kingdom, with both government and private medical facilities taking steps to implement information and communications technology (ICT) health tools, and technology companies working to develop more advanced services and products. As well as ben-efitting the general population, a strong e-health industry can also aid the medical tourism sector. An open-platform consortium of ICT firms in Jordan, known as the Health ICT Taskforce (HICTT), was launched in late 2011. The HICTT aims to expand ICT collaboration within the medical sector and support local companies working to develop e-health products. HICTT operations are conducted under the umbrella of the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan (int@j), an industry-supported organisation created in 2000. Funding for the task force is provided by the global networking company Cisco Systems and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, a non-governmental organisation founded in 2001.

DIGITALISATION: The HICTT aims to meet its aims by determining local and regional e-health opportunities, evaluating the ability of domestic ICT firms to compete outside of the kingdom, creating mentorship programmes to connect local companies with global ICT health care firms, and increasing awareness of Jordan’s e-health industry. According to int@j, over 30 companies were involved in the HICTT as of in late 2011. One of the taskforce’s stakeholders is Electronic Health Solutions (EHS), a non-profit group based in Amman. Set up in October 2009, EHS is a partnership between several key organisations in the kingdom including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Royal Medical Services and the Private Hospitals Association. EHS is working to implement two main initiatives. The Hakeem programme began in 2009 and focuses on digitising medical records at government-run hospitals and clinics across the country. Once digitised, medical records will be made available via networking infrastructure, enabling doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals to easily access electronic patient data anywhere in Jordan. Patient data will provide a comprehensive medical history and allow health care staff to access digital radiological exams and lab results. The programme is being implemented through the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), an information platform used by the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical system. Composed of a set of 100 integrated software modules, VistA has been used worldwide. As of September 2012, the Hakeem programme was being implemented in four health facilities in the kingdom, and EHS plans to go countrywide, including 45 hospitals and 85 clinics, over the next six to seven years.

RESEARCH & EXPERTISE: The Electronic Medical Library (EML) is EHS’s second initiative. Launched in September 2012, the programme focuses on creating a national library of the most recent electronic journals and books related to health care and medicine. The EML will aid the health sector by providing easy and equal access to a wide range of resources, thus helping health care professionals and researchers keep abreast of developments in the field. Another step to boost the kingdom’s ICT health sector was taken in October 2012 when Jordanian industry leaders met with potential business partners in San Francisco, California. Set up through a collaborative effort between int@j, Cisco, the Foreign Commercial Service of the US Embassy in Amman and the US Trade and Development Agency, the delegation was made up of leaders in the e-health sector from both large corporations and start-ups. The purpose of the trade mission was to ultimately establish cooperative partnerships, between US and Jordanian ICT health firms. Partnerships created could take a number of different forms. For example, Jordanian and American companies could jointly build new products, such as Arabic-language editions of US applications, websites or software. Another type of partnership could involve Jordanian companies licensing US products.

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