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Clean bill of health: How Zulekha Hospital achieved ISO 20,000 certification

Tom Paye | May 15, 2013
A normal business may see much sense in improving the service management of its IT department. If the improvements increase IT's efficiency, reduce costs and minimise downtime, ROI is easily measured.

A normal business may see much sense in improving the service management of its IT department. If the improvements increase IT's efficiency, reduce costs and minimise downtime, ROI is easily measured.

However, in a hospital's case, much more is at stake. When a hospital's IT system impacts the way in which doctors treat and care for their patients, real lives depend on the IT department's ability to perform under pressure.

Such was the thinking behind Zulekha Hospital's decision to implement the Information Technology Infrastructure Library's (ITIL) best practices, and gain ISO 20,000 certification for process management. Adhering to ITIL best practices is the most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world, and achieving the ISO 20,000 certification that measures these practices proves that the organisation's IT team really does run itself to the best possible standards.

Clearly, a patient at any hospital would hope that the IT side of things is top-notch, particularly given the digitisation of records and information. However, Zulekha Hospital was the first healthcare organisation to achieve the ISO 20,000 in the GCC when it gained its 2005-standard certification in 2011.

"This is the first hospital in the entire GCC region to have the vision to go for the quality initiative, to make sure the patients are important, because we realise it's not about business or a loss of image -- it's loss of life," says Ali Asgar Bohari, Director of IT, Zulekha Hospital. He presided over the switch to ITIL best practices, which he decided to begin in 2009.

"Before implementing ISO 20,000, we were doing our job, but we were not able to show that we were doing it," Bohari says. "It was kind of off-hand. So the IT department was kind of negligible."

The problem, Bohari says, was that requests to the IT department were never documented. If somebody wanted a report, or wanted their printer fixed, they would simply call the IT department and then an IT employee would follow up on the request. Conversely, there would be no records of the IT system being up for 99 percent or even 100 percent of the time. No documentation was ever made, meaning it was difficult for the department to justify more investment at a time when the Zulekha group was growing.

Given the group now includes a hospital each in Dubai and Sharjah, plus a medical centre and another planned hospital in Sharjah, this simply wouldn't do. So Bohari sought out best practices that he could implement, and landed on ITIL and the ISO 20,000 certification. However, as he found out, this would require a culture change that would hardly happen overnight. Indeed, it took more than two years for his team to get certified after deciding to implement in 2009.

 

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