AHIMA World Congress Hosts First Ever Middle East Healthcare Information Summit

As a number of Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates transition from a single payer system to one that’s privatized with multiple payers, coding systems are increasingly being used for reimbursement there. Naturally, expertise in clinical coding, data analytics, information governance, informatics, and clinical documentation improvement (CDI) are in demand.

That’s where the AHIMA World Congress Middle East Healthcare Information Summit comes in. The summit, being held October 19 to October 20 in Abu Dhabi, UAE, is expected to draw more than 500 health information professionals from all over the world. According to Alexandre Bouché, MBA, MA, global managing director of the AHIMA World Congress (AWC), this summit is building on a legacy of annual conferences organized by a group of AHIMA members and other expatriates who worked as health information professionals in the UAE. That event was known as the HIM Congress, though this year AWC is partnering with the group to expand that grassroots gathering and grow its reach into the summit.

Bouché emphasized that the summit is not a membership meeting or the Middle Eastern equivalent of AHIMA’s Annual Convention and Exhibit, being held in Los Angeles starting October 7. Rather, the Middle East Healthcare Information Summit is intended to be an educational and training platform serving the local workforce and expatriates from other countries that live and work in the Middle East. Approximately 80 percent of the healthcare workforce in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and other surrounding countries come from abroad, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, and Europe.

Change in Payer System Creates Education Need

Because so many Middle Eastern countries are switching payer models, Bouché said the summit has three focuses:

  • Local workforce development
  • Best practices (which refers to AHIMA’s approach to coding, auditing, CDI, etc.)
  • Revenue cycle management

With reductions in oil revenues and further geopolitical influences, Middle Eastern countries are making the transition away from single payer because healthcare costs were becoming too much for governments to bear alone and they needed to diversify their revenues. Additionally, because so many people living in these countries are ex-pats, it made sense for governments to privatize their payment systems.

“Because they switched from a single payer, government paid system to multi-payer, they are now really putting a lot of effort and emphasis on quality of the revenue cycle, on the coding, auditing, on denials and the case management,” Bouché said. “There are multiple instances of very high rates of denials, rejections, and misunderstandings (standards, methodologies, etc.)  between the payers and providers. So the local healthcare systems really need this best practices learning and education training to make sure that the revenue cycle is really up to the best practices.”

The summit will have three main tracks—medical coding, clinical documentation improvement (CDI), and informatics and data analytics—and will feature at least 25 speakers ranging from local experts in the region to US-based experts, including AHIMA staff subject matter experts.

Immediately following the summit on October 21 will be a day of professional development (consecutive) workshops for those seeking AHIMA credentials such as the CCS, CCA, CHDA, and the CDIP.

“I am looking forward to networking with people from similar industries,” said Dina Ahmed Hidayat, BSN, MLHPE, HIS clinical systems analyst and RN at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, SEHA, Abu Dhabi, who will be giving a presentation on nursing informatics at the Middle East Healthcare Information Summit. “Being a clinician who works in both clinical and technical worlds, I rarely run into professionals of similar background. I am excited to listen to people present their experiences within the various fields of health information management.”

Wide Range of Presenters and Presentations

The agenda and the topics that will be covered at the summit are designed in the best traditions of typical AHIMA events. Hidayat’s presentation, for example, is “Informatics Competencies for Nurses” and focuses on the importance of informatics knowledge within nursing practice, identifying the main levels of competency that can be acquired by nurses, and correlates the importance of these competencies in the improvement of health systems.

“The idea mainly is to highlight the issue that nurses in our region have not been academically prepared to use all the technologies we have today, more precisely EMRs [electronic medical records],” Hidayat said. “I then suggest a solution based on research [the four levels of competencies] as explained throughout the presentation; to which nurses can be trained in order to manage healthcare technology from basic to expert levels.”

Jim Massey, an AHIMA member, innovator, healthcare advisory practice for Cerner Middle East, and a presenter at the summit, says that electronic health record (EHR) adoption in the Middle East varies by country. Countries like Qatar and the UAE were early adopters and are world leaders with the adoption of designations such as HIMSS Level 6 or 7. Other countries don’t have EHRs yet, are still in a hybrid stage, or are currently working on implementations—not unlike American providers.

“Health IT is at the top of all the countries’ agendas. It is seen as part of the transition from an oil-based economy to a mixed economy and a basic human right,” Massey said.

Massey’s presentation, “Value Based Payment: The Need for High Quality Documentation,” deals with something that American HIM professionals are intimately familiar with—measuring quality and value. His presentation speaks to the importance of CDI as one of the focuses of the summit.

“The role of documentation in this is absolutely critical and without high quality documentation the aims are only partially achievable,” Massey said.

Benjamin Poku, DrPH, MPH, MIS, an AHIMA member and assistant professor at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi, participated in planning the summit. He touts the summit as an opportunity to build relationships with all stakeholders of the healthcare industry especially key health industry decision makers in the Middle East.

Poku’s presentation, “Promote Adoption of Clinical Systems by Health Care Organizations in UAE,” discusses the various healthcare stakeholders in the UAE, such as health systems, laboratories, pharmaceuticals, biomedical companies, private and public payers, regulators, and public health organizations.

“These organizations will depend on the exchange of clinical data. Therefore, to promote the adoption of clinical systems within these healthcare organizations in [the] UAE would help to improve patient care,” Poku said.

In the final days before the event, there are strong indications that the summit is shaping up to become a major anchor platform for the healthcare information professional development, training, and AHIMA best practices exchange for years to come, Bouché said. The summit’s agenda equally represents the speakers from local/regional and international providers, payers, regulators, and vendors alike.

Click here for more information about the AHIMA World Congress Middle East Healthcare Information Summit.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.


  1. Welcome AHIMA, Awaited for you from long time. Education is the most beautiful platform to grrow where AHIMA always takes stand. Like to join you at earliest.

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