By Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)
During this past month, I have come across many articles, tweets, and other publications that ridicule the standard of healthcare and education in the UAE. Although for the most part the criticism may be valid, I believe there is also a lot being done to combat the lagging standards of education and healthcare in the UAE. However, the effectiveness of what is being done is still questionable. In this month’s article, I will attempt to give a very high level summary of the situation as I see it and offer some recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the efforts to harbor quality products & services.
In the past few years, the UAE has been trying to tackle the identified issue of low quality healthcare and education by employing several methods. Some attempts included changing the government officials responsible for those industries, creating stricter guidelines and regulations, providing interactive online services, and incentivizing the private sector to take a lead role in developing these areas.
Although these improvements were hoped to drastically alter the efficiency and quality of services provided, I believe the upside effect was minimal in terms of impact on quality. In reality, what the new services introduced was a rigid and strict system that posed as an obstacle towards improvement of quality rather than simplifying its introduction into the UAE. For example, very recently, the UAE could not register a specialized surgical nurse to assist in surgery due to the lack of such a classification in the system, even though the use of such a nurse would increase efficiency of surgeries and secure safety measures for the patient. Many similar non-value added situations can be witnessed, whether it be attesting your college degree, admitting children into school, or even simply getting a medical check-up. These inefficiencies tend to impede quality improvement due to the level of complexity they add to the process.
In my opinion, the efforts exhausted to improve healthcare and education have not been effective for simply the reason of not understanding the industries’ requirements. The introduction of quality is not merely putting in stricter guidelines but requires an understanding of the situation and ability to adapt to each on a case by case basis. Based on my experience, the following two general rules of thumb would open doors to drastic quality improvement in the realms of healthcare and education.
First, it is crucial to maintain a high quality workforce that is competent enough to understand the challenges of each health/education provider as well as the requirements for delivering high quality. This implies the need to increase the salaries of policy makers and regulators to attract the best talent. However, high salaries are not enough to attract and retain such talent. It is crucial that their driving forces be identified and investments be made to foster them. These could include personal research funds, membership to global societies of policy makers, regular training, and travel to benchmark standards and share results. It is important that every employee be focused on.
Second, flexibility.. flexibility.. flexibility. In order to facilitate change, it is very important that processes and regulation be flexible enough to accommodate innovative techniques that may not be industry norms but proven to be effective and safe. For example, a new teaching method or surgical technique should be approved although it is not the industry standard as long as it can achieve outstanding results. Without flexibility, the ability to innovate or improve quality provision would be impossible. Innovation and change needs to arise from a flexible system where not only the rules can be created based on requirements but also where the employees have the flexibility to think outside the box.
In summary, although many efforts have been put into improving the quality of healthcare and education provision in the UAE, the efforts have not been successful. A major contributor to the failure in quality improvement in these areas is the mere lack of understanding of the industries’ requirements. I believe that with the employment of a competent workforce and a flexible environment, the UAE can achieve a better understanding of these industries’ and accelerate quality improvement.
June 2011’s issue:
Here We Start – Community Talk – Food for Thought – Just Another Undergrad
Living Through The Eyes of Art – Microscopic Me – Scenes From Life
Society of Tomorrow – To The Point – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.