On Monday, October 5th, 2015, in the National Convention Center, Qatar hosted the thirty-second conference of the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQUA), under the slogan “Building Quality and safety in Healthcare”. The event was attended by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, His Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Minister of Interior, the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Health, His Excellency Minister of Public Health Mr. Abdullah bin Khalid Al Qahtani and a group of healthcare leaders and experts in healthcare from around the world.
In his speech, His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani praised the importance of the conference as the most prestigious in its field, and commended the efforts of the ISQUA to improve the quality of healthcare in the world. He stated, “Building quality and safety in healthcare systems cannot be achieved without solid foundations and strong initiatives, and systems to ensure the provision of the best healthcare, at the right time, according to the highest standards.”
He also reiterated Qatar’s focus on quality within the development of health systems, and mentioned many important programs and national projects in this area. Most notable is the establishment of the National Council for Healthcare Practitioners, which follows the Supreme Council of Health (regarded as the regulatory body supervising and licensing healthcare practitioners working in the State of Qatar).
His Excellency also noted the national program for licensing and accreditation of healthcare facilities, which works to promote and develop health facility licensing requirements according to international best practices.
His Excellency added that the “Application of Performance Agreements” project, between the Supreme Council of Health and all health service providers in the public and private sectors, enables health providers to work within a common framework uniting the process of measurement and evaluation of institutional performance. This helps decision-makers to enact legislation and policies that promote institutional quality of performance.
His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani added that the National Health Insurance project enhances the quality of healthcare. It also provides opportunities for patients to choose where to receive treatment in the public or the private health sector, which in turn creates healthy competition between service providers in both areas.
His Excellency concluded with his hope that the conference will contribute to the development of health services in the world.
Professor David Bates, president of the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQUA), praised the efforts of the Supreme Council of Health to improve healthcare. He also noted their intense passion for hosting the conference — hosted by Qatar for the first time in the Middle East since 1996. More than 700 participants from 50 countries attended the event, during which they discussed approximately 350 research papers within 250 workshops that were organized for the duration of the conference, in addition to 300 research posters at the exhibition.
His Excellency Professor Lord Darzi, professor of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, paid tribute to the healthcare system in Qatar and the great development, seen under the influence of Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, in upgrading the system and the level of services provided to patients according to the best international standards.
He emphasized the importance of quality in healthcare, pointing out that there is still considerable room for progress in this area. In areas such as aviation, quality and safety systems have succeeded in reducing accidents and errors to a ratio of 1 in 10 million, while in the field of healthcare accidents continue to happen at a ratio of 1 to 10, which is a very high percentage.
He pointed out that 45 percent of clinical practices in the world do not follow an evidence based approach, stressing that 30–40 percent of global spending on healthcare does not have any particular effect on patients’ health. This means that the huge amounts of funds spent on healthcare do not contribute to improving patient health. He also stressed the importance of behavioral economics, introducing the concept of MINDSPACE. Today’s policy makers influence behavior, so they need to understand what effects their policies could have. The aim of MINDSPACE is to help them do this, and in doing so get better outcomes for society.
He addressed the problem of patients missing hospital appointments, which costs countries much money. For example, in the United Kingdom, the estimated cost of patients not attending appointments is up to 225 million GBP. He described the UK’s experience — sending a variety of text messages to patients on their mobile phone to remind them of their appointments — and highlighted that the messages which included the cost of health services caused the highest response rate (up to five times greater in one study) even when these patients did not bear the cost directly. The question that arose was: What is the cost of missed medical appointments in the hospitals of Qatar?
Professor Darzi also stressed the need for coordination between the different medical teams, as communication problems are the biggest cause of adverse effects, as much as 80 percent, and can often lead to death. He pointed out that the likelihood of death in hospitals on the weekends is far greater than on weekdays due to exacerbation of communication problems. He praised some solutions to overcome this problem, for example: the international application HARK, which can be downloaded to smart-phones, supporting coordination between medical teams with scheduling and distribution of duties among the medical staff. He also referred to a similar application, “CareReport,” which has recently been implemented in Qatar.
With regard to the serious problem of misdiagnosis, Professor Darzi mentioned one of the solutions recently introduced in Qatar: Computer-Assisted Diagnosis — an information system that helps medical teams diagnose patients. He praised its effectiveness in lowering diagnostic errors.
Concluding, he affirmed the ISQUA’s desire to upgrade the safety of patients worldwide as the ultimate objective and said, “If we are committed to quality, any mechanism will succeed,” stressing the importance of the role of quality in healthcare.
The International Association for the Quality of Healthcare (ISQUA) was founded in 1984 and is one of the important international organizations concerned with the development and improvement of healthcare services provided to patients and their loved ones, collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) as a partner and consultant. It also has its own program of international accreditation and holds its own annual conference.