DUBAI // Health care providers are to be exposed to unprecedented public scrutiny and accountability under plans to publish performance ratings for hospitals and clinics for the first time in the UAE. "Deciding to publish performance data was not a tough decision to make," said Haidar al Yousuf, the transition leader of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
"It will increase transparency and competition between different entities; this can only be a good thing." It was "all about driving better quality of health care in Dubai, that is what we really want". At present, there are no yardsticks against which to measure the performance of medical facilities and the news that they are to be assessed and publicly rated is expected to send shock waves through the health sector in the emirate.
Dr Yousuf said he was determined there would be no hiding place for any of the emirate's health care providers. "It is about being transparent; by publishing performance data there will be nowhere to hide. Every provider will be accountable. If we say we are going to do this, we are going to do it. This is Dubai's credibility on the line." Now it was a matter of "ensuring we do it in the right way and the system is actually mature enough to take it and work with it. It will simply take time. If we do it too soon we could potentially harm a lot of people".
The DHA was launched last month and will take over much of the responsibility from the Department of Health and Medical Services, introducing changes over the next four years that represent the biggest shake-up of the health system in 30 years. "We are going to give the system time to adjust and evolve and once all the elements are in place, start collecting and collating the data," said Dr Yousuf.
The DHA will play no part in running any of the public or private facilities. Instead, a government-owned public corporation will be set up to deliver health services to the emirate. At present, performance data is not made public by either the Ministry of Health, which has jurisdiction in the northern Emirates, or the Health Authority Abu Dhabi. The performance tables, which are expected to rate hospitals in a number of categories, will be similar to those published in parts of the US and in some European countries. They will be based on admission data, inspection reports, customer surveys and success rates.
"This is not just a way of judging the hospitals and clinics, it will also be a way of looking at the DHA itself," said Dr Yousuf. "We will see if our regulations are working efficiently and where any changes might need to be made." Ultimately, he said, if there was a problem in the system, "it is the responsibility of the DHA. It is our job to make sure that the health care system is the best it can be for everyone".
At its launch, the DHA announced a new health funding system, which would give everyone in the emirate access to health care. All employers or sponsors will have to contribute between Dh500 (US$136) and Dh800 to a central fund and everyone must then register with outpatient clinics, which will be paid set fees per patient. Hospitals will compete for referrals from the clinics and will get the business only if they offer a high-quality service.
"It is all about giving people in Dubai the quality they deserve," said Dr Yousuf. "We will be working very hard over the next four years to set up a comprehensive health care structure which suits Dubai's needs, which have changed dramatically in the past 30 years." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org