Patients in Qatar will soon be able to formally complain online about healthcare staff or medical treatment they have received at public and private clinics here, as the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) plans to launch the National E-Complaint system.
No timeline for the system going online has been set, but the SCH is currently asking for local or international companies to submit tenders for the proposed new system by July 15.
The move is the latest step in Qatar’s bid to improve the transparency and accountability of its healthcare system under the National Health Strategy – a five-year plan that goes from 2011-16.
According to a recently released regional report, Qatar’s “quality of healthcare is still not at par with that in the developed countries due to which patients travel abroad, especially for complex treatments.”
The country’s system also struggles because it relies on foreign professionals, and there is high turnover, making it difficult to establish a baseline standard of care, states Alpen Capital, a leading investment bank in the Gulf and Asia.
The E-Complaint system would be one of the key methods for patients to report medical errors or grievances, and for them to be investigated.
Patient handling system sought
According to the new tender document, the SCH is seeking experienced organizations to bid to supply the electronic patient handling system.
The new system would give patients “easy and fast access” to lodging complaints about healthcare providers or facilities, and would fall under the remit of the Fitness to Practice Department of the Qatar Council of Health Practitioners.
This body was set up by Emiri decree last March and is an independent council that governs all healthcare workers in both the public and private sectors. Its mandate involves looking into all complaints about a healthcare worker’s conduct or competence.
Last week, a senior SCH official was quoted in the Peninsula as saying that the new system would make it “faster and easier” to receive and assess patient complaints.
Dr. Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, Director of the Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety Department and acting CEO of Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP) at SCH said:
“The system will be based on a special software that can accept all types of complaints related to health services, covering all areas of healthcare.”
Also included in the new system would be a “patient safety alert” to quickly pass on to hospitals and other healthcare facilities urgent information about new health risks.
The SCH has recently undertaken a number of new initiatives to further develop Qatar’s healthcare system and standardize the quality of healthcare that patients receive.
Earlier this year, it introduced a new reporting system, the Health Service Performance Agreement (HSPA), that obliges all hospitals and primary health care centers to report regularly on several performance indicators.
This is expected to better integrate hospitals and clinics, which previously had no formal links, making it difficult to share patients’ records.
The move would also provide a unified set of metrics against which to measure the standard of care given by different providers.
Meanwhile, a patients’ Bill of Rights is reportedly being prepared, to be launched “soon.”
In March this year, the Peninsula quoted Al Khanji as saying the bill would “specify whether a patient has the right to refuse treatment, seek a second opinion, and ask what treatment they are getting, among other issues.”
However, four months later, the bill has yet to be formally announced by the SCH.
Qatar’s healthcare sector is one of the fastest growing in the region and increasing demand and pressure on services are expected over the coming five years as its population continues to boom.
Alpen Capital’s 2014 GCC Healthcare Report forecasts that Qatar will see a 14.4 percent growth rate in terms of rising costs and demand for services from 2013 to 2018. Outpatient and inpatient markets are expected to account for 79 percent and 21 percent of the market, respectively.
In addition to the population explosion, lifestyle factors also play a key role in creating demand, as the incidence of chronic diseases such diabetes and obesity increase.