Vice President & Managing Director, Cerner Middle East & Africa
“We are focused on working together with our partners to transform the delivery of health and care in the Middle East & Africa”
Hospitals and The Arab Hospital magazines discussed with Bachir Awad, Vice President & Managing Director of Cerner Middle East & Africa, the future of healthcare and the impact of the new technologies in shaping healthcare services. Below is the full interview:
Can we have a brief resume about your career?
I joined Cerner in 2006 in Australia, where I started in consulting and held multiple leadership roles across operations and client partnerships. In 2012, I relocated to the United States to Cerner’s World Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, where I was responsible for developing an approach to enhance the overall user experience and drive strategic alignment between Cerner and its clients. In 2014, I moved to the Middle East to establish the strategic alignment between Cerner and the Ministry of Health & Prevention – UAE. As the Vice President & General Manager of Cerner’s global partnerships, I led a team responsible for supporting our highly aligned clients to achieve maximum value from their relationships with Cerner and deliver on the shared strategic vision and goals of both our organizations. Earlier this year, I was promoted to Vice President & Managing Director of Cerner Middle East and Africa, where my focus is to continue building on our relationships with our clients while improving business outcomes. We always strive to support our clients to attain their goals and execute their strategic vision, whilst focusing on delivery of better healthcare outcomes.
Artificial intelligence will play a major role in redefining the healthcare sector worldwide. What is your perspective about it?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term and as of late has created a lot of hype within the industry. At Cerner, our systems have embraced these types of technologies for years and naturally have been part of our DNA, as we continually advance and invest in R&D to deliver smarter healthcare.
As you look at the future, the use of AI capabilities will redefine the healthcare industry, providing more advanced predictive insights and better supporting the caregivers in diagnosing diseases and complex patient conditions. This is really exciting stuff and will open up many more opportunities to innovate, explore complex healthcare problems, create new insights and more importantly deliver smarter and more reliable healthcare.
In addition, AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated in diagnosing and prescribing treatments for diseases, allowing doctors to focus less on data collection and more on preventive care, as well as creating a customized care plan unique to their patients. AI will allow health providers to monitor the patient’s health status at any time and in any place, whilst the intelligence provides real-time information, allowing the care providers to take appropriate actions.
Imagine this – if I was to relate technology to my children’s health records, they are disconnected and span over three continents. With such a disconnect often either my wife or I need to provide the same data to different care providers over and over again every time they present at a different care provider, which is not ideal. Imagine a world where health records can be centralized and different data sources, like data streaming from technology such as personal and fitness trackers, can be stored. Then let’s now layer in sophisticated AI capabilities to analyze and effectively utilise information to deliver the best possible healthcare to your children and family.
For instance – if someone in my family happens to have a heart condition and was on a complication hypertension and diabetic care plan, the system will know them as an individual. Whilst streaming key vitals from a range of personal fitness and medical devices, the system will be smart enough to pick up any irregularities and immediately notify their care provider and family members to take action. Ai is personal, predictive and more importantly intelligent as it continues to evolve throughout a patient’s life.
How do you evaluate the technological advancement in healthcare in the region?
The region is moving from a volume-based care delivery to value-based. It now means we need to be delivering smarter healthcare, based on value outcomes. Hence, we will see the increased reliance on technology to support the process of care delivery with caregivers focused on delivering the best possible patient experience and not be burdened with time consuming administrative tasks. In this respect, technology is absolutely the foundational and transformative vehicle that will allow information to flow freely. No matter where a patient goes, it’s crucial to have the right information available at the right time and the right place to make the best possible decision on care delivery. The region is adopting technology at a rapid pace and if done correctly, could leapfrog many other countries. Cerner has a unique opportunity in the Middle East and Africa to make this vision a reality. To achieve this vision, we first need to overcome the hesitance that surrounds data governance in the region. This will allow us to connect technologies and bring healthcare management to the next level. I truly believe that similar to the disruption that technology had on social media and consumerism, once consumers take control of their healthcare records it will rapidly change the way healthcare is delivered, the ownership of personal healthcare data and more importantly how consumers select and interact with their care providers.
Your systems are one of the best worldwide. In your opinion, what is the reason behind your success?
With more than 27,500 facilities worldwide and nearly 40 years of experience, we offer unique services in our proposition to the market. We have more than 28 years of experience just in the Middle East. This has helped us to truly understand and appreciate the healthcare delivery models in region, tailor our services and solutions to meet the needs of our partners and in turn drive smarter healthcare delivery.
Cerner is a healthcare organization, not simply a software provider or consultancy group. We have a set of best practices and guidelines that help our partners deliver the best experience not only for their patients but their care providers. This is a major differentiator and key to our success as a healthcare organization.
When I visit my doctor at a clinic, I provide information that goes into the doctor’s healthcare information system. However, when I go home and measure my blood pressure or get on the digital scale, where does that information go? How does the rest of my health data outside of the physical walls of the hospital or clinic make its way into my record? It’s simple, today in most cases it doesn’t and that’s not good enough. Cerner, as a healthcare organization, is focused on innovation that puts the patient at the center and creates a holistic view of the patient’s end to end healthcare data, whilst making meaningful insights and recommendations to better manage the health and wellbeing of each individual patient.
As today’s technology evolves at a rapid pace, the healthcare landscape will change dramatically. Helping organisations leverage the latest technology and innovation, will support them to continue to succeed, and this is what has contributed to Cerner’s success over the years.
How do you foresee the future of healthcare?
I envision the healthcare of tomorrow to have the consumer at the center of everything we do. Whilst big data, use of AI and predictive modeling is important for providing smarter healthcare delivery, consumers want a better experience. Consumer want to simply turn on their smartphones, enter information about themselves, connect it to their electronic health record (EHR), have easy access to a personalized care plans and more importantly have on-demand access to their care providers or chat bots to instantly connect. This is what I foresee in terms of a consumer-based healthcare model of the future.
Moreover, I believe proactive care will eventually replace reactive care in the long term. By rewarding wellness, reactive healthcare will become secondary as consumers get more engaged with their personal healthcare and the industry starts to introduce technology and incentive programs to drive it. This practice is starting to emerge in many markets including the United States and I believe will slowly start to make its way to the Middle East. This shift toward a highly centralized, highly digitalized, consumer-based healthcare delivery model has already begun and Cerner is at a forefront of it.
The most exciting thing about where we are today and where we are going to tomorrow, is the Middle East is uniquely positioned to deliver such a vision through use of smarter systems and population health management. Cerner is proud to work collaboratively with many governmental organizations across the Middle East and has shown that such strategic partnerships within healthcare can help them achieve their vision and ultimately delivery better healthcare outcomes across their populations.