Middle East 2.0 – What does a successful digital transformation look like?

Opening up the highly anticipated HIMSS & Health 2.0 Middle East Digital Event, leading CIOs and health leaders from the GCC and beyond shared strategies and real-world evidence towards achieving successful digital transformation.

The speakers were Joanna Holt, clinical applications manager, SEHA, Tim Kelsey, Senior vice president analytics, HIMSS, Dr Raed AlHazme, CIO IT executive director, Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs (MNG-HA), John Rayner, regional director, Europe and Latin America HIMSS analytics and Dr Afzal Chaudhry, consultant nephrologist and chief medical information officer, Cambridge University Hospital.  


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Digital transformation has become a required mandate in health systems around the world, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maturity models such as EMRAM are needed to benchmark organisations and identify critical milestones and roadmaps towards digital excellence. It has become key that healthcare organisations not only involve innovators and vendors to assist with the digital transformation journey, but also their workforce to successfully execute the transformation.


Cambridge University Hospitals NHS FT (CUH) recently became the first UK healthcare trust to be awarded Stage 7 on the EMRAM by HIMSS. Dr Afzal Chaudhry recounted the progress made at the trust: “Back in 2013, we signed a contract to implement an enterprise-wide trust electronic patient record system. It took us about 18 months to introduce all of the necessary infrastructure and to configure the system in such a way that it was suitable for UK workflows.

“We went live with the Epic electronic patient record system on the 26th of October. It’s really since then that our digital journey has commenced in term delivery ever-increasing high-quality care underpinned by technology.”

Implementing barcode medication administration

Chaudhry spoke about the benefits seen from applying a barcode medication administration, a system which has played a pivotal role in the digital strategy implemented at the trust: “Each month, every day, when nurses working in the middle of a pandemic, working under very high pressure and circumstances would have given medication to a patient who wasn’t prescribed that medication in the first place. The system prevented them from doing that.

“Whilst it may only be relatively modest in terms of finances, making sure that we don’t give medication to patients for longer than necessary, does save us some money on our drug bills and in a socially funded healthcare system that’s immensely valuable to us.”

Prioritising staff engagement

Listing the key ways to successfully deliver digital transformation, Chaudhry revealed: “Much of this is about engagement with staff. What you can see over time is ever-increasing confidence in the system and ever-increasing ability of our staff to use the system to care for our patients.

“The delivery of high-quality care underpinned by technology is really driven by what we describe as our unsung heroes, the people who are doing their job on a day-to-day basis, working with the system.

“Whilst it’s important to have digital leadership, it’s also important to understand that it’s those people working on the front line every day, whether it’s clinical, operational, administrative, they are the people who helped to deliver the benefits.”

“We have made sure that we’ve explained to our hospital that this is not about technology, this is about doing the right thing to care for your patients,” added Chaudhry. 

Next steps and enhancing analytic maturity

Discussing the future digital transformation plans for the trust, Chaudhry said: “This is a never-ending journey. As we strive for that ever-increasing quality of care, we find that the HIMSS models in particular are extremely valuable in helping to guide and shape the decisions that we make.

“For any institution, it’s important to reimagine and reinterpret the workflows that you do and the opportunities that exist for you based on your local health economies.

“The opportunity to review that in the setting of a maturity model that’s been validated internationally is very striking. It provides us with triangulation, it provides us validation, it provides us assurance that we’re moving in the direct right direction.

Chauhdry highlights: “It will help us to engage with our staff and to strengthen those unsung heroes that I talked about in the delivery of meaningful sustained clinical transformation.” 

Find out more about the HIMSS & Health 2.0 Middle East Digital Event and learn more about the latest news and developments from the event here.

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