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Malaffi, Abu Dhabi’s Health Information Exchange Platform

Healthcare records are going fully digital in Abu Dhabi, helping healthcare delivery, policy making, and medical research.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which plagued the world throughout 2020 changed our understanding of the way healthcare providers should work, especially during times of crisis. Among other things, it shed light on the importance of digitalization in the healthcare sector. Many countries, from South Korea to the UK, tried to come up with track-and-trace apps to keep an eye on those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, while tracking down those who have been in contact with potential carriers of the new coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the national healthcare services across the world need to reach out to those vulnerable citizens who are already suffering from a preexisting condition to protect them against the virus. As vaccines are beginning to emerge for COVID-19, health authorities everywhere are on the lookout for a dependable healthcare database to triage the population and determine which groups of people should first receive their dose of vaccine because of their age, their occupation, their previous health history, or any other factors that may put them at a higher risk.

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has already launched a health information exchange platform which since July 2019, has been connecting together all public hospitals and clinics operated by the Abu Dhabi Health Services company (SEHA) as well as a handful of private healthcare providers. Malaffi—which is Arabic for “my life”—is the first health information database in the GCC. The platform’s objective is to interconnect some 15,000 public and private healthcare provider across Abu Dhabi, allowing them access to the health records of any patient in the emirate with utmost safety and privacy. Thus, when patients are hospitalized for whatever reason, doctors and nurses can immediately browse their health history without any need for questioning the patients or their family.

This will greatly improve the quality of health services not only in an emergency or during a pandemic, but also during normal times. Quite understandably, patients are often unable to provide the healthcare providers with a complete account of their health records; they do not know what details are of importance to doctors and nurses and—in any case—they do not know much about the technical details of their previous diagnoses and prognoses. Would not it be great if whenever healthcare professionals were looking after a patient, they had a detailed written account of their colleagues’ previous dealings with the patient in question?

Malaffi was conceived to address this precise niche. It was launched as a public private partnership (PPP) between Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health (DoH) and Injazat, a private pioneer in cloud computing and digitalization. The fruit of this partnership is Abu Dhabi Health Data Services (ADHDS), which is currently operating Malaffi.

“With universal, Emirate-wide participation of facilities and patients, every medical interaction a patient has, from a routine checkup, consultation or emergency treatment, to laboratory tests or radiology reports, will now be collated in their personal file, with their medical history safely and securely stored and instantly accessible when needed,” according to Malaffi’s official website.

Malaffi also keeps a record of patient demographics across Abu Dhabi, which can be of assistance to the Department of Health and other public authorities in policy making. No randomly selected statical population for medical research can possibly complete with a platform that contains all medical interactions which the entire population of an emirate has ever had, including information pertaining to each citizen’s allergies, lab tests, radiology and MRI results, and prescriptions. Chances are that Malaffi’s unique database will soon help Emirati researchers to tackle many as yet unsolved medical problems and produce a large body of research which will help not only Abu Dhabi and the UAE but also the entire world.

The health authorities had envisioned such a use for Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art health information exchange platform well before its launching. The platform’s official website notes that “Malaffi will provide invaluable population health information to the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, to monitor the quality of care in the Emirate, help launch health awareness and prevention programs and identify public health risks, for a healthier Abu Dhabi.”

At the same time, the users of Malaffi can rest assured that the platform has a very plain policy about privacy and anonymity. The platform and those healthcare providers which use it are expected to fully comply with the local and federal health privacy laws at all times. In simple words, while the health demographic data may be used anonymously to help policy making and medical research, a single individual’s health records will never be shared with a third party.

And, ostensibly, Malaffi has earned the trust of Abu Dhabi’s 3 million residents. A recent poll conducted by YouGov, a British market intelligence and data analysis firm, showed that around 88% of the residents in AbuDhabi are keen to download the Malaffi app and use its services. As such, soon the trial phase of Abu Dhabi’s health information platform will be completed and its user base will expand hugely, with over 2,000 healthcare providers joining it in the first operational phase.