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Dr. Abdulelah Alhawsawi

SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Better Outcomes for All

Director General, Saudi Patient Safety Center (SPSC)


Dr. Abdulelah Alhawsawi is a healthcare quality and patient safety expert who was appointed director-general of the newly established SPSC in 2017. Previously, he served as assistant secretary-general for technical affairs at the Central Board of Accreditation for Healthcare Institutions. Dr. Alhawsawi is a double board (American and Canadian) certified transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon. He also serves as an assistant professor of surgery at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah. He did his general surgery residency at Dalhousie University Medical Center in Halifax from 2004-2009.

Above all else, SPSC's vision is safer healthcare for all, including patients and healthcare workers.

In March 2019, the fourth Global Ministerial Patient Safety Summit took place in Jeddah. What were some of the outcomes?

The concept is simple: to have subject matter experts in patient safety and policymakers under one roof. We had 45 countries participating, and half of them sent their ministers of health, while the director-general of WHO also attended. One of the significant outcomes was the Jeddah Deceleration on Patient Safety, which has been endorsed by 21 countries. This declaration included a commitment to encourage patient safety in low- and middle-income countries and to use digitalization to improve patient safety. At the summit, the Saudi Minister of Health launched the MedConsult App to help healthcare professionals connect with one another. Another major outcome of the summit was a whitepaper written by SPSC and the International Council of Nurses. One of our policy recommendations was a safe nursing ratio, namely that a recommended number of patients that should not be exceeded. Other countries are now adopting our recommendations as well.

Could you tell us more about your engagement with WHO to promote patient safety?

A significant step in the global patient safety agenda was WHO passing the global action patient safety resolution with the unanimous support of member states, which, amongst other policy directives, established September 17 as World Patient Safety Day—the first one to be in 2019. In addition, our application to become a WHO collaborating center for patient safety is in the process, and once ratified will be another milestone. Another important step toward internationalization is the coming G20 summit, which will take place in Riyadh in 2020. We seek to place patient safety on the agenda.

How have you advanced on your four main priorities: medication safety, infection control, maternal and child safety, and patient empowerment?

Our vision is safer healthcare for all, and by all, we mean both patient safety and healthcare staff safety. Our mission is to eliminate preventable harm by working with two main stakeholders: patients and their families, and healthcare professionals. We are in the second year of the center, with still a great deal of foundational work to be done at a national level. We also have other priorities as well through our engagement with the global patient safety community. One of our current practical priorities is the establishment of our national patient safety platform, SAWTAK, which in Arabic means “your voice,” as a learning system for adverse events in healthcare. SAWTAK will be a big game-changer for patient safety management and change the way reporting is done. We have 470 hospitals within the country, and over the coming seven years, the system will be implemented throughout those hospitals as well as in primary care centers and pharmacies. A key differentiator of this platform is that it will focus on what, not who. It will be a learning platform, not a shame-and-blame platform. We are building two reporting applications for this: one for healthcare professionals and one for the public, and it will be available in both English and Arabic. There are many moving parts within and outside the healthcare system, and we want this system to align with all the relevant stakeholders and smooth the sector’s digital transformation.

How will the SAWTAK platform drive further digitalization in healthcare?

For the development of the platform, we partnered with Datix, a system used by 80% of healthcare facilities in the UK for adverse events reporting. As the backbone of SAWTAK, we have developed the Saudi Patient Safety Taxonomy over the past two years. The issue with adverse events reporting is that there is no standardization in reporting, and people have different interpretations. This adverse effect monitoring effort will bring us all sorts of insights to improve the healthcare sector.



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