Role of Technology in Health Management in Saudi Arabia
Role of Technology in Health Management in Saudi Arabia
1.0 Research topic
Healthcare technologies are advancing rapidly and changing the way health is managed. From the digitization of patient records to telemedicine, technology promises to improve the efficiency, accessibility and affordability of healthcare across the world (Matthews, 2019). Therefore, many healthcare systems across the globe are adopting digital health management technologies to improve healthcare management, and Saudi Arabia is following suit. In 2017, the government of Saudi Arabia inaugurated a new National Model of Care in which health technologies are to be adopted across the country’s healthcare system and educational programs (Al Kuwaiti, Al Muhanna, & Al Amri, 2018). Moreover, Al Kuwaiti, Al Muhanna and Al Amri (2018) noted that the Saudi population was already responding positively to using technology in obtaining healthcare. However, studies evidencing the benefits and challenges of these technologies in healthcare management in Saudi Arabia are scarce (Alsulame, Khalifa, & Househ, 2016). Therefore, this study would contribute to the limited evidence on the efficacy and barriers of digital health management in Saudi Arabia.
2.0 Review of the literature
Quality, access, and cost of healthcare were major healthcare issues permeating the research space. Kim, Huh, Lee and Shin (2019) noted that quality healthcare remained elusive and healthcare management should improve to attain the quality goal. In addition, healthcare management was encountering increasing volumes of data and digital technologies were increasingly playing a facilitative role in managing healthcare systems (Kim, Huh, Lee & Shin, 2019). However, detailed country-specific studies on the state of healthcare management technologies were needed to facilitate inter-country comparisons and develop targeted recommendations. From a different perspective, Mamlin and Tierney (2016) argued that high-speed internet connectivity was needed for the effective use of technologies in healthcare management. Internet connectivity facilitates the sharing of health information, personal communication, and access to remote services. Digitized records, information exchanges, portals, social media, and mobile devices were significant technologies influencing healthcare management (Mamlin & Tierney, 2016). However, healthcare management using these technologies was challenged by a lack of universal programming interface and patient identifiers across digital records, and mobile and wearable devices, unsustainable payment models in telemedicine and fragmented rules of engagement in social media (Mamlin & Tierney, 2016). As such, these technologies were neither interoperable nor secure enough to deliver the expected benefits.
The Saudi government provides free health care to its citizens, although private establishments that charge for their services exist as well. However, the government only cates for 60% of all healthcare services in the country, while the private sector takes up the rest (Alharbi, 2018). However, Alharbi (2018) revealed that resistance from stakeholders could jeopardize the Saudi healthcare National Transformational Program (NTP 2020) and the subsequent achievement of Vision 2030. Vision 2030 and NTP 2020 intend to uplift the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare in the Saudi Arabia (Alharbi, 2018).
In investigating the implementation of digital technology across academic medical centers (AMCs) in Saudi Arabia, Al Kuwaiti, Al Muhanna and Al Amri (2018) noted that although digital technologies could address the increasing demands of a burgeoning Saudi population and increased occurrence of communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country, barriers to implementation needed to be identified. The authors cited technologies such as, telehealth, smart devices and electronic health records (EHR), which should be adopted by hospitals to improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare. This study was conducted in the backdrop of the new National Model for Care, which the Saudi government launched in 2017. The initiative comprises of health innovation centers, health education programs, electronic health services and virtual self-care programs (Al Kuwaiti, Al Muhanna & Al Amri, 2018). In the same vein, Alsulame, Khalifa and Househ (2016) conducted a systematic review of existing literature on electronic health applications in Saudi Arabia. Their study revealed that although organizations were increasingly adopting e-health technologies such as clinical decision support systems, computerized provider order entry, electronic medical records and electronic health records, studies in this area was low, providing insufficient evidence on the state of e-health in Saudi Arabia.
This literature revealed that although healthcare management technology was rapidly evolving and had advanced immensely, its use remained problematic and insufficiently investigated. The knowledge and evidence gaps existed in Saudi Arabia, considering that most studies were conducted in highly-developed countries. With healthcare featuring prominently in Saudi’s vision 2030, the state of healthcare management technology in the country needed to be assessed urgently.
3.0 Research objectives
This study aims at assessing the role played by technology in the management of healthcare and the challenges being faced in the use of technology in Saudi Arabia. The objectives of the study are:
- To determine which technologies are used in healthcare management in Saudi Arabia
- To assess the benefits derived from the healthcare management technologies by the patients, healthcare professionals, healthcare establishments and country
- To identify the challenges faced in adopting healthcare management technologies across Saudi Arabia.
4.0 Research strategy
A descriptive research strategy will be used in this study. This strategy will shed light on the current issues related to healthcare management technology by collecting data that will enable an accurate description of the situation in Saudi Arabia. For instance, the study will seek to determine the relations between variables related to digital healthcare management, such as between technology adoption and accessibility, efficiency of delivery and patient satisfaction among others.
The descriptive strategy used in this study is grounded in the postmodernism philosophy in which dominant ideologies and repressed meanings equally contribute to truth and knowledge. Moreover, the strategy is anchored on subjectivism because the social reality is influenced by multiple actors presenting several realities (Thornhill, Saunders, & Lewis, 2009). This study intends to capture the different realities presented by the different actors in the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia. To execute this strategy, this study will use qualitative methodology that will be operationalized through a survey of healthcare stakeholders. The qualitative methodology is preferred because the researcher is no table to manipulate the conditions of technology use in healthcare management or the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of the participants, unlike in quantitative methodology where the control of variables is feasible (Thornhill, Saunders, & Lewis, 2009). Ultimately, the researcher intends to understand a phenomenon of health management technology in its natural setting in the Saudi Arabia healthcare system.
Primary data will be collected using questionnaires that will be administered online. Individuals drawn from the population of patients, healthcare professionals, policy makers across the country will be invited to participate in the study. Clustered sampling will be used to enroll the participants into the study. Five policy makers, 20 healthcare professionals and 40 patients will be selected randomly from a pool of those who consent to taking part in the study. However, the population will be pooled according to the 12 administrative regions to ensure that all entire country is represented in the study. The clustering will apply to healthcare professionals and patients and not the policy makers.
5.0 Anticipated results
It is expected that the research findings will augment the available but insufficient evidence on the use of technology in healthcare management in Saudi Arabia. The data analysis using descriptive statistics that will be conducted using computer software (SPSS) should yield valuable information about the permeation of health management technologies in Saudi Arabia and the benefits being derived by the various stakeholders, along with the challenged being experienced. This information will assist policy makers and healthcare administrators evaluate their technology adoption strategies and address the underlying challenges.
However, various data collection challenges are expected. For instance, lack of internet connectivity may hinder enrolment of participants and administration of online questionnaires to remote areas in the country. Internet penetration in Saudi Arabia was 76% (Shahbaz, 2018). Moreover, some participants may change their mind in the course of study, necessitating their replacement or omission.
6.0 Schedule and budget
The study schedule is detailed in table 1.
Table 1. Gantt chart of the study schedule
|Questionnaire formulation and piloting||1|
|Participant selection and approval||1|
|Data entry and analysis||3|
The study budget is outlined in table 2.
Table 2. Study budget
|No||Item||Cost per unit||No of units||Amount (SAR)|
|3||Internet costs||82.5 per month||8||660|
|4||Data analysis||300 per hour||5||1500|
Al Kuwaiti, A., Al Muhanna, F. A., & Al Amri, S. (2018). Implementation of digital health technology at academic medical centers in Saudi Arabia. Oman Medical Journal, 33(5), 367. doi: 10.5001/omj.2018.69.
Alharbi, M. F. (2018). An analysis of the Saudi health-care system’s readiness to change in the context of the Saudi National Health-care Plan in Vision 2030. International Journal of Health Sciences, 12(3), 83-87.
Alsulame, K., Khalifa, M., & Househ, M. (2016). E-Health status in Saudi Arabia: A review of current literature. Health Policy and Technology, 5(2), 204-210. doi: 10.1016/j.hlpt.2016.02.005.
Kim, W., Huh, M. Y., Lee, S. P., & Shin, H. K. (2019). A study of healthcare management and technology in Asia: Focused analysis on South Korea, China and Japan. Journal of Industrial Distribution & Business Vol, 10(3), 17-23. doi: 10.13106/ijidb.2019.vol10.no3.17.
Mamlin, B. W., & Tierney, W. M. (2016). The promise of information and communication technology in healthcare: extracting value from the chaos. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 351(1), 59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2015.10.015.
Shahbaz, A. (2018). The rise of digital authoritarianism. Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTN_2018_Final%20Booklet_11_1_2018.pdf.
Thornhill, A., Saunders, M., & Lewis, P. (2009). Research Methods for Business Students. Prentice Hall: London.