As part of ongoing efforts to improve access and to strengthen the quality of primary health-care services, UNRWA introduced the family health team (FHT) approach as part of its reform agenda. By the end of the first quarter of 2013, 41 health centres across four of the Agency’s fields of operations (excluding Syria) were implementing the FHT approach. This has entailed the training of health-care staff, the integration of information technology infrastructure, and the renovation of health centres to ensure good patient flows under the FHT structure. Tangible improvements in efficiency and performance are emerging, which benefit both patients and health-care practitioners.
Within a changing environment of increasing health-care needs – and particularly in light of increasing rates of chronic non-communicable diseases, rising costs and limited financial resources – it has become imperative to find and adopt new strategies to respond effectively to the emergent needs of the population.
Traditionally, patients have been attended by different doctors for different problems, and even specific problems were not always treated by the same doctor. Consequently, workloads were not evenly distributed among staff and consultation times were often unacceptably short. In contrast, through the health reform, the family health teams are responsible for the health services of families. These teams of health-care professionals work together to provide continuous, comprehensive, patient-centred primary health care to their patients.
The family health team approach is being integrated into a wider range of efforts that aim to improve the quality of care; among other efforts, through the introduction of an electronic medical record and appointment system named e-health. E-health will help health staff to access patient information more quickly and easily, simplifying reporting processes and thereby allowing for longer consultation times. As family health teams get to know their families and have quicker access to each patient’s full history, it will be easier for them to provide the best advice and care.
Following the implementation and appropriate refinement of the family health team pilots, the approach will gradually be mainstreamed across UNRWA’s 139 primary health centres. This process will be finalized in Lebanon and Gaza by the end of 2013, and in Jordan, the West Bank and Syria by 2015.
Health Reform Strategy (PDF)