The roots of the Zulekha Healthcare Group in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) date back to 1961 when its founder Dr Zulekha Daud arrived in Sharjah. The young medical graduate turned into a practising physician serving patients from all walks of life, and soon became a household name in the region. In 1992, she established the Zulekha hospital in Sharjah, starting off as a 30-bed setup with basic facilities for gynecology, obstetrics, surgery, and pediatrics. Today, Zulekha Hospital in Sharjah is a 75-bed multi-disciplinary, outpatient and inpatient facility which includes a diagnostic center. Specialized wards focus on cardiac, intensive, and neo-natal intensive care as well as treatment of burns. The Zulekha Healthcare Group includes a new hospital in Dubai, four medical centers, and three pharmacies.
A key role for IT
Implementing IT at Zulekha hospitals was “a long journey”, remembers Aliasgar Bohari, who has served the group as Director IT for more than eight years. “We started from scratch. Today we are the only care provider in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) whose IT conforms with ISO 20000”. Significant support from the Managing Director, CEO, and President of the group has helped achieve this impressive development. “They clearly understand the great value of IT”, explained Aliasgar Bohari, “with its contribution to making clinical and business processes efficient, supporting strategic decisions, and making the business grow.”
Zulekha Group’s application landscape includes, e.g., software for hospital management and information (HMIS), PACS, and lab information. The infrastructure sports close to 500 workstations, blade and further servers, and a data center both in Sharjah and in Dubai. Communication between the sites is enabled by an MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) connection. The imaging departments operate, e.g., modern ultrasound, CR, CTs, and MRIs, and there is an advanced cath lab.
Choosing a PACS
In 2009, the group decided to invest in a PACS to cut costs and improve availability of medical information to physicians. “We spoke to a number of major vendors in the market”, said Aliasgar Bohari, “only to find that all of them required an HL7-enabled leading system.
However, we were not prepared to change our HIS and its RIS module, and integration without HL7 became a key requirement for the PACS from our side.
Another issue was a heavy burden regarding hardware platforms and financing. Then”, the IT Director continued smiling, “we got in touch with VISUS-ME, distributor and implementation partners of VISUS in the region. They introduced us to a reference implementation of JiveX and informed us that this PACS from VISUS can integrate into our HIS – which is from India – without requiring HL7… and without a huge investment in hardware.”
Smooth implementation following demo phase
VISUS-ME and the hospital’s IT team carried out the integration with the HIS, and communication between the systems worked well. Therefore, the decision in favour of JiveX was taken late in 2009. Physicians had been made familiar, during three months, with the system at the hospital in Sharjah. This demo phase produced positive results, and the implementation by VISUS-ME was launched. It was carried out in 2010 in the hospital in Dubai, and in 2011 at the site in Sharjah. “Both implementations ran smoothly, in time and budget”, records Aliasgar Bohari. “Since then, the PACS has worked perfectly, and the support for our 24/7 operation has been very good. Our radiologists and the other physicians found the solution very user-friendly and highly performing, and quickly adopted it for routine use. We are very much satisfied with JiveX.”
The benefits of using the PACS are obvious, according to the Director of IT: after capturing, images are accessible instantly campus-wide via the hospital network. Aims of the management have also been achieved – a significant reduction of cost by replacing the wet lab with Green IT, and rapid availability of patient images anytime, anywhere.
“In the next phase, we plan to roll out teleradiology so physicians are able to work from their homes, facilitating availability of reporting competence 24/7”, said Aliasgar Bohari. Another project will focus on the integration of non-DICOM modalities.
Paper-free hospitals are a main goal of the Zulekha Group’s management; the PACS from Visus, integrated with the HIS, has made a significant contribution in this strategy. The outpatient activities are now fully digital; digitization of inpatient activities is underway.