In an age of streamlined technology, some sectors are still struggling to keep up with the slick pace that the latest developments have enabled. One of those is the healthcare sector. Yet, Fakeeh Care, a private healthcare company in Saudi Arabia, is leading the way, not only on unlocking the digital possibilities within the sector, but through innumerable other firsts across its industry. We spoke with Sanjay Shah, Executive Vice President and Chairman of Kameda Arabia, to learn more about the many areas in which Fakeeh is paving the way.
“Our mission is about transforming people’s lives through clinical excellence, compassionate care and health education,” Sanjay tells us. Fakeeh Care began with the Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital, founded in 1978 by the late Dr. Soliman Fakeeh with an aim to carry out healthcare that was driven by innovation and compassion. Since then, Fakeeh Care has expanded, and is now a vast operation that brings a truly impressive standard to healthcare and medical services within Saudi Arabia’s private sector. The organisation has kept Dr. Fakeeh’s innovative aspirations alive, its history a series of incredible ‘firsts’: in 1984, it achieved the first IVF fertilization in the Kingdom, as well as the delivery of the first IVF baby; in 1985, it became the first private hospital in the Kingdom to perform a kidney transplant; in 1990, it was the first hospital to carry out a heart transplant in the western region. The list continues. In 1994, the DSFH virology lab isolated the first reported case of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and was able to alert the World Health Organisation. This was repeated in 1996 for a new flavivirus.
If this impressive history wasn’t enough to set Fakeeh Care apart within the medical industry, there are also its many departments and facilities, which are not only innovative, but luxurious in the amount of care they attentively offer to Fakeeh’s patients. “What we’ve tried to develop is what we feel is in the best interest of the patients – an integrated platform of healthcare provision.” This integrated system combines primary, secondary, home and tertiary care, offering everything from checkups to hospitalisation to additional health input such as stunning gym facilities.
Stunning isn’t an exaggeration: in 2018, Fakeeh opened the Olympia gym, aptly named because the facilities tower above their breathtaking surroundings as if you’re atop the mountain of the gods. The gym is built in a striking tower right beside the Red Sea, with incredible views over the water no matter where you are exercising. Some classes are even held on the helipad on the roof! The company launched gyms as a part of its wellness concept in 2009, but in 2018, it moved its main facilities to this iconic location. “We felt that the environment of looking out on the Red Sea and being calm would help with the wellness concept; you are already releasing the right chemicals in your body to raise your happiness when you begin your workout.”
A more niche but extremely crucial facility of Fakeeh’s was launched in 2006 – a centre where the company provides support for physical and mental disabilities, including learning disabilities. “I feel very passionately about it. There was a sort of taboo within the community; kids used to get sent abroad in very quiet circumstances and forgotten about, so we’re really raising the profile. I think it’s changing, and looking at special needs in a holistic manner makes such a difference to the provision of care and the support we can provide.”
Another change in mentality that Fakeeh is trying to introduce and encourage is the concept of family medicine and primary medical care within the Kingdom. “What we’re trying to achieve is sustainability of care, provided through family care practitioners who refer patients to a tertiary site when needed, and then, when the continuity of the care is required, they return to the community and continue to be seen by their family practitioners.” Whilst this is a common concept in many countries, it is not the case in Saudi Arabia. “Currently, if you have a problem, you just walk into a hospital – there are long queues in ER. We’re trying to be pioneering in this family medicine concept, to ensure that there’s the right quality of care provided at the right time.”
Sanjay was born in Zanzibar and raised in Kenya, but his family moved to the United Kingdom when he was in school, and this is where he continued his studies. After a period in banking, he began his career in medicine in a private London facility called The London Clinic. He is therefore well acquainted with this proposed method of delivering care, which is the standard in the UK, and is eager to see the advantages it offers catch on in Saudi Arabia. “It’s still in the early stages in terms of pushing that message through, but it’s going to be heavily promoted. We already have a primary care facility, which came into fruition last year, and as of earlier this year, we have one of the largest ambulatory facilities in Jeddah. This facility has four modules; an emergency care module, a diabetes one–stop shop, a dialysis unit and a wellness unit. It’s a large polyclinic as well, with the best radiology on offer.”
Fakeeh has another primary care centre opening soon, and also manages centres owned by other companies. Through these, it has introduced programs such as immunisation drives, regular MOT checkups and disease management – “for example, if you have diabetes, you can come in for a program of sustained care.”
Encouraging this shift in mentality is in keeping with the Saudi Arabian government’s 2030 Vision, which also wants to see a higher proportion of people being seen in primary care setups. “It will take time – when you’re changing the habits of people across a region, it inevitably takes time. However, we’re confident that we’re embedded into that process.” Fakeeh is also attempting to encourage the change by engaging with insurance companies and encouraging them to incentivise this kind of healthcare input amongst their customers.
Another model that Fakeeh has brought to the Kingdom is that of an academic care model. Counties with teaching hospitals often have statistically better outcomes for their patients, and Fakeeh has implemented this within its own hospitals. “In 2003, we started the Fakeeh College of Medical Sciences – this is about developing our own nurses and our medical lab staff, and we now offer medicine and PharmD programmes. We also have one of the biggest residency programs in the Kingdom, with amazing results.” As well as its successful residencies, Fakeeh’s academic healthcare delivery model is unique to the country: “It’s a special place for the future superstars of the medical profession.”
Fakeeh has housed so many firsts and is pushing so many transformative initiatives that one could easily fill an entire magazine exploring it all. However, even in the face of everything we’ve touched upon, it is their imminent development on the technology front that Sanjay was the most eager to share with us, and he had good reason.
Hospitals around the world suffer from issues in their administration; despite aims to digitise, paper records, systems errors and a lack of streamlined data still cause delays, doubled efforts and countless unnecessary costs for hospitals. Fakeeh Care’s administration and record keeping, on the other hand, is fully digital. Not only that, its system is streamlined, easy to use and extremely effective. Even better, it is about to move to the next level.
“We have a platform that I chair – a hospital information system called Yasasii. Just recently, we won the HIMSS 6, which is one of the highest ambulatory care accreditations, and ours is the only one to have received that accreditation in the MENA region.” As it currently exists, Yasasii allows Fakeeh Care staff to access a patient’s full data history, which, as Sanjay explained, helps “clinicians, nurses and support staff in making decisions in the time of care in order to save lives, improve medication and improve error rates. Our vision within that is to try to embed the patients with that tool.”
In order to do this, Fakeeh Care has developed an app; this app will be a game changer for both patients and Fakeeh staff. In fact, its potential uses are almost endless. Offering patients “complete connectivity with the hospital”, app users would be able to access their test results and book appointments with the ease of a banking app, instead of waiting to hear from the hospital and battling with a long administration process. Sanjay named banking apps as the goal; “They have such rich functionality, you don’t need to actually visit a bank or go online on a PC. That same concept, we will introduce in our healthcare provision. It’s a very powerful apparatus for us to develop.”
Applying the revolutionary abilities of a banking app to healthcare would be empowering for both patients and medical staff, would greatly improve a patient’s experience and would achieve incredible feats in terms of time-saving and accuracy. Not only would patients be able to access their medical data and book, cancel and reschedule appointments with ease, but they could select their doctor and send information ahead to that member of staff, including notes of any concerns that they wish to discuss, as well as any special requirements they have. Sanjay said they could even use the app within the room, to alter conditions such as lighting and temperature, and could review the service they received afterwards.
Meanwhile, doctors would not only have the full medical history that Yasasii already provides, thus greatly reducing issues of incorrect prescription, but they could easily request and receive information on the patient if they have come from another institution. “We’d also potentially be able to do follow–up consultations; instead of needing to be present, they could live chat on the app.” Through live chat, messaging and the exchanging of test results, this ability to do follow-up consultations remotely would greatly speed up hospital efficiency, as well as make it far easier for a patient to fit the consultation into their day. The list of uses seems as though it could go on forever – Sanjay even mentioned the possibility of connecting with a patient who is arriving from a long distance as soon as their plane lands, thus allowing the hospital to arrange for them to be picked up from the airport. As for navigating the hospital itself, the app could show patients exactly where they need to go and guide them there, so they don’t have to attempt to understand the confusing hospital signs. Essentially, once the foundation is in place, the only limit to the app’s functionality is imagination. “I’m very passionate about bringing this to the potential of the Kingdom; it really is something quite stunning.”
This unprecedented achievement was possible for Fakeeh Care through a combination of hard work, creativity, and the fact that it had already developed such a steady and functional base. “We’re in a superior position where we already have a unified source of data for patients; Yasasii catches all the diagnostic, radiology and lab results, reports from the physician and nurses… it captures absolutely everything, and does the billing as well. It wouldn’t be too difficult for us to take it one step further: the potential is quite immense.”
Fakeeh Care introduced Yasasii within its own hospital and merged it with an ERP product called Oracle, and they also offer it to other hospitals within the Kingdom. It hopes to eventually offer the system to not only hospitals, but governments. As for its new app, it hopes that its abilities will improve patients’ experiences so much so, and offer them so many capabilities, that they choose a loyalty to Fakeeh’s hospitals. Why not, when it’s where you get the best service? “We see the app as a real tool for integrating and embedding patients within our community.”
Fakeeh has called the app YAR which has an Arabic and Indian meaning. The Hindi meaning is ‘My friend’, and the Arabic meaning is ‘My love’. Although Fakeeh is developing the app in-house, it is doing some of the work at its offshore R&D department in Southern India, hence opting for the clever double-meaning. (Yasasii, too, was partially developed in India, and partially in Japan).
Of course, the number of functions that Sanjay has discussed will not all be introduced at once, and due to the level of functionality desired, everything has to be perfect. A multi-functional administration tool like this could be luxurious if it’s done right, but a disaster if anything goes wrong. The company has and will test intensively at every stage, but excitingly, it looks forward to launching the core app next month. It will then continue to develop the app over the coming months (and years, no doubt), but from what we’ve heard, it seems as though there’s no limit to the benefits it could provide. Perhaps one day, this system and others like it will be implemented in healthcare the world over. For Fakeeh, it will be yet another first.