Qatar’s healthcare industry is moving closer to introducing common quality standards across private and public hospitals as well as clinics with the launch of a new pilot licensing and accreditation program.
Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani yesterday announced details of the new scheme, which will start next month and initially include a sample of healthcare centers.
By March next year, all public and private health service providers will be covered by the National Program for the Licensing and Accreditation of Healthcare facilities scheme, a Supreme Council of Health (SCH) official said.
The program will be run by the SCH and would appear to be part of an ongoing effort by authorities to improve transparency of health services to patients and help them make informed decisions about where best to seek treatment.
It also seeks to streamline the administrative process under a single regulator, according to the health authority’s website.
“It gives the patient the right to choose the appropriate service provider, which creates a healthy competition between providers of these services,” Gulf Times reported the prime minister as saying.
It also aims to standardize how facilities are monitored and measured by authorities.
“It allows decision-makers’ effective use of the results of these indicators in developing policies and legislation that improve the quality of corporate performance,” he added, in a speech at the 32nd Conference of the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, held at the Qatar National Convention Center.
When fully implemented, all clinics and hospitals will have to licensed and can then apply for accreditation, Qatar Tribune reports Aisha Al Ali, Manager of SCH’s healthcare facilities, as saying.
This new system would appear to build on a scheme launched in April last year by the SCH aimed at improving accountability of clinics and surgeries.
Under the Health Service Performance Agreement (HSPA), all primary healthcare centers and hospitals had to report multiple performance indictors to the SCH on a regular basis.
Raising and standardizing quality standards and patient experiences across all healthcare facilities in the country are among the goals listed in the 2011-16 National Health Strategy (NHS).
Authorities have in the past recognized gaps in the system, particularly a lack of integration between clinics and hospitals.
This can make it difficult for patients to move between facilities and referrals can be complicated. For example, the NHS notes that there is no standard way of referring patients from primary healthcare such as doctors’ surgeries to hospitals for specialist treatment.
“Especially of concern is the fact that secondary services do not furnish a standard set of clinical information to primary care after a patient episode, thereby jeopardizing the continuity-of-care process,” the NHS adds.
Also last year, the SCH announced it would launch an online patient complaints system, allowing residents to lodge comments or complaints about their treatment from public or private health professionals.
While Qatar’s healthcare system is expected to be the fastest-growing in the region, it faces challenges including a shortage of skilled professionals, and the fact that most doctors come to Qatar arrive from overseas on temporary contracts.
This can lead to a lack of continuity of care and a high turnover of staff.