Technologies will play a key role in transformation of health services, says Saudi minister

Al-Rabiah reviewed an app that remotely and promptly interprets X-ray images, which is already being used in four hospitals. (SPA)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Technologies will play a key role in transformation of health services, says Saudi minister

  • Al-Rabiah said digital health technologies will play a central role in the transformation of health services envisioned by the Health Ministry
  • The Mawid app, which was presented during the inaugural session, is a centralized system that enables patients to book appointments

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah inaugurated the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and exhibition in Riyadh on Wednesday. 

The event aims to raise awareness about the importance of e-health care and its role in improving performance, services and the use of resources in the health sector.

It was organized by the Health Ministry, the Saudi Health Council (SHC) and the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS).

Addressing the opening session, Al-Rabiah said digital health technologies will play a central role in the transformation of health services envisioned by the Health Ministry. A large part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan focuses on health issues, he added.

“E-health will be an essential part of this transformation, and will support it so as to contribute significantly to the improvement of health services and streamline access to such health services,” he said.

The Mawid app, which was presented during the inaugural session, is a centralized system that enables patients to book appointments in Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) in coordination with the relevant department, Al-Rabiah added. 

Through the app, patients can book, amend or cancel their appointments at any hospital to which they were referred, and rate the quality of services provided, he said. 

Another app, Seha, provides an online medical consultation service through doctors accredited by the Health Ministry, he added.

Patients can get these consultations via chat, voice or video calls, and evaluate their experience at the end of the consultation, said Al-Rabiah, adding that the ministry is developing electronic medical prescriptions.

“I think artificial intelligence (AI) will play a huge role in the development of health services in the coming years,” he said, adding that the ministry will include AI services in Seha.

Based on experiences outside the Kingdom, AI gives better results than visiting a physician, Al-Rabiah said.

“We appreciate the pivotal role of the physician, which is indispensable, but this technique will reduce pressure on the physician and facilitate access to health services in common diseases,” he added.

Al-Rabiah reviewed an app that remotely and promptly interprets X-ray images, which is already being used in four hospitals. AI will be introduced to make readings more in-depth and accurate, he said.

Al-Rabiah stressed the need to train and qualify health practitioners to use these new techniques, and thanked the SCHS for making such training a prerequisite for obtaining a health practice license.

“The future is brighter with the use of technologies in health services, and the Kingdom will be a leader in this field,” he said.

SHC Secretary-General Dr. Ahmed Al-Amry said the conference held three training courses and workshops with the participation of international trainers.

The conference received 60 working papers, 27 of which were accepted, he added. Six will be presented in the main program, and 21 in the form of posters.

The accompanying exhibition included an innovation lounge where visitors could learn about local stories of e-health start-ups.

Besides the Health Ministry, the SHC and the SCHS, exhibitors included local and international organizations such as the HIMSS, the Saudi Society for Health Administration (SSHA), the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and the Gulf Health Council.

Maryam Hamad Al-Dhewalia, a research specialist at the SFDA, told Arab News: “We’re happy to be part of the conference and exhibition, and we at the SFDA look forward to ensuring the safety of food and drugs as well as e-products.”


Saudi Arabia says missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead

Updated 20 October 2018
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Saudi Arabia says missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead

  • The journalist died after a fistfight at the consulate in Istanbul
  • Deputy intelligence chief, royal court adviser removed from positions, 18 Saudis arrested

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday the death of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying a preliminary investigation indicated he lost his life after a fight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul... devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death,” the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the public prosecutor.
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection with the incident and the investigation is ongoing, the public prosecutor said.
“The Kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place and stresses the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the public opinion, to hold all those involved accountable and bring them to justice,” a statement on the SPA said.
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in the US, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate to complete paperwork related to his divorce.
Deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Al-Asiri was removed from his position and Saud Al-Qahtani from his advisory role at the Royal Court, through royal decrees.
Three other intelligence officials who were also sacked have been named as Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Rumaih, Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Shaya and Rashad bin Hamed Al-Muhamadi.
King Salman also ordered the creation of a ministerial committee, headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to restructure the country’s General Intelligence agency and issue the results of its work within a month.
Members of the committee include the interior and foreign ministers as well as the heads of the General Intelligence and State Security.
A team of Saudi investigators were sent to Istanbul and have been working on the case with Turkish detectives, who entered the consulate on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Saudi Arabia promised a thorough and transparent investigation into what happened to the journalist in Turkey.