Thursday, May 2, 2013

Middle East PACS Success Factors

Kingdom tower in Riyadh,
Site of HIMSSME 2013

Although I have traveled several times to the Middle East while doing training classes in Dubai, Egypt and Kuwait, this was my first visit to Riyadh, Saudi, to attend the HIMSS Middle East conference. While visiting healthcare facilities and talking with quite a few PACS administrators, it was again amazing that major manufacturers do not make an effort to find out what the local requirements are for a different culture such as that of Arabic countries. It is critical for medical devices and PACS systems to support Arabic names as there are no on-to-one translations from Arabic to English, therefore, a person would have to show up in a worklist with both the Arabic name and its English translation.

Some of the major vendors are not making an effort to implement this, which by definition rules them out from any opportunity in this huge market. I believe this is one of the reasons that smaller companies such those based in Egypt or Turkey can be more effective in this region, in addition to the fact that their support can be better as well.

In addition to not meeting local requirements such as supporting the native character set, there are also many complaints from the user community about the poor service and support by European and US healthcare imaging and IT vendors. Again, it is amazing that these companies don’t make the effort to properly train and recruit engineers and professionals with the same level of competence and skills as in their mother countries. I have had the opportunity to meet and train many professionals from the Middle East and I can assure you that these are among my best students, many of them trained at some of the top US universities. Therefore, they have the same technical skills as engineers in western countries.

To be successful in the countries of the Middle East, and I assume it applies to other regions as well, such as the Asia Pacific region and possibly Eastern Europe, vendors need to learn what the local requirements are, customize their systems to meet those requirements, and train a local technical staff that can support these complex systems. As the market for some of the healthcare imaging and IT systems, such as PACS, are maturing in the US and Europe, the opportunity for growth is definitely among the emerging countries.