Healthcare in Bahrain – Mariam Adhbi Al-Jalahma, CEO of NHRA

Gulf Insider speaks to Mariam Adhbi Al-Jalahma, CEO of NHRA, on Bahrain’s healthcare system.
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What are the new digital trends being adopted in healthcare?

We have several projects related to digitization in the health system. The application – Doctori provides online consultation from professionals either inside or outside the country. You can choose doctors, ask them questions and they will even give you advice on where to go for treatment. However, these doctors do not provide prescriptions and cannot authorize sick leaves.

There are very few facilities for MRI and CT scans in the country. So the consultants specialized in multiple disciplines in radiology opened a service called Teleradiology. There are more than 70 consultants available in the service to read reports sent from hospitals. This enables faster results.

Also, there is another application – Sehati, developed by the government to assist in locating doctors and hospitals.

How are private hospitals regulated in terms of fees and treatment procedures?

The fees at private hospitals are not regulated by law. We only make sure that the patients receive quality treatment based on the correct policies and procedures that must be followed by the hospital.

What are you doing to control misconduct in healthcare facilities?

We verify that the procedures for infection control, patient safety, and quality are in place for all hospitals. We ensure that staff is aware of the procedures and complaints are handled responsibly. If a patient raises a complaint against a hospital, we investigate it immediately. Complaints against hospital services regarding the proper implementation or healthcare professionals are investigated by separate committees.

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We also have an in-house team and surveyors from outside NHRA to carry out inspections at hospitals.

‘Lack of patient’s confidence in certain health facilities’ is specified in the challenges of NHRA strategic plan 2016-2020. What are you doing to change this?

The accreditation program for hospitals was developed for this. We publish the list after the evaluation process so that people will be able to know that they are choosing the right healthcare providers. An accredited hospital will increase people’s confidence in medical procedures, medication storage, and medical devices.

The NHRA also assures that no medication or medical device enters Bahrain without being checked. Even personal packages you order from online stores are checked to make sure that it is not counterfeit and is allowed in Bahrain. Inspections, accreditations, and pricing of medicines are regulated by NHRA to increase patients’ confidence.

Why do people choose private over public healthcare?

Some people prefer private healthcare. I think this is because of easier access and reduced waiting time as they get faster results.

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The government is also looking forward to working with the private sector. Now, you can see the pre-employment checkup is handled by private hospitals, which has reduced the waiting time from 3 months to 2 days and you even get the results within a week.

The price of medicines is found to be different in different pharmacies. What is the process for regulation?

The price of medicines is set by the NHRA. The pharmacies are not allowed to make any changes to it. If they do, it’s a crime for which they can be taken to the Public Prosecution.

The approved price list is published on our website for better transparency.

Bahrain aims to be a hub for medical tourism. What challenges are you facing to achieve this aim?

A medical hub is not just about setting up hospitals. It’s a package that includes easy access to the country, providing provisions to take the patients from the airport to the hospital and finding a place for them to stay. Currently, we lack in medical tourism companies that support medical facilities in Bahrain.

We also have to make sure that facilities especially the ones specialized in aesthetic treatment are not completely commercial-based as it can jeopardize patients’ safety and affect the reputation of the country.

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