Interview: Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari
What distinguishes public sector health care from private sector health care?
HANAN MOHAMED AL KUWARI: Qatar’s private health care sector has grown significantly in recent years, with many new private hospitals and clinics offering a wide range of health care services. A referral system enables patients to transition between providers in the public and private sector when their condition requires a different approach. Despite this growth, however, it is still the public sector that delivers the vast majority of health care services in the country. For example, HMC delivers around 85% of the country’s secondary and tertiary care. Additionally, there are a number of specialist services in Qatar that are provided solely by the public sector. These include HMC’s level-1 trauma centre, ambulance service and specialist cancer treatments. How does preventive care differ from treatment-focused care at the national strategy level?
AL KUWARI: Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2018-22 and Public Health Strategy 2017-22 both place a significant focus on preventive care. Like developed countries around the world, we are experiencing an increase in the prevalence of largely preventable lifestyle diseases, among them obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. As a sector we must do more to educate people and help them make the right choices for their health. In addition, we must shift our model of care from “sick care” to health care, and help people live healthy, disease-free lives. By doing so we will see a decline in demand for care focused on specialist treatment.
In what ways can technology best be used to increase accessibility and effectively manage social and lifestyle health issues?
AL KUWARI: Technology has played a central role in our ability to increase the quality of care we deliver. In recent years we have successfully implemented the Clinical Information System across the public health care system, which provides a personal electronic medical record for each patient. In doing so Qatar has become the first country in the world to utilise this technology across its entire public health sector. We have also launched the MyHealth patient portal, which enables patients to access key health records via the internet, a positive step forward in enabling people to take control of their own health.
Social media usage is increasing in Qatar, and across the health system we are actively using this valuable channel to reach as many people as possible. Digital platforms are ideal for conveying key educational messages, which can help people stick to healthy lifestyle habits. This is highly valuable for health promotion activities that encourage individuals to pass on positive messages to their peers.
How would you assess the ability of Qatar’s health care infrastructure to meet expected increases in patient visits by 2022?
AL KUWARI: Qatar’s population has grown at a remarkable rate in recent decades. In fact, since the start of this century, Qatar’s population has seen an almost five-fold increase, from 600,000 people in 2000 to around 2.8m at present. This rapid growth is unparalleled in the world and has placed considerable pressure on the health care sector.
Our response as a health system to this increased demand has been strong and internationally recognised. We have opened nine new hospitals in the public sector this decade, in addition to six new primary care health and wellness centres and numerous private sector facilities.
By making this considerable investment in infrastructure we have ensured we are in a strong position to meet the increases in demand that the system is predicted to see over the next few years.
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