The COVID pandemic showed that traditional healthcare systems cannot stand still (in case another pandemic-type crisis breaks out) and must swiftly transform to meet changing needs.
The ‘Arab Health 2023’, an annual event held in Dubai and billed by organisers as the largest exhibition and congress for healthcare and trade professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, included several speakers who stressed the need for evolution and quick transformation (MENA).
Every nation has realised that innovation is no longer just a luxury due to COVID, according to Gerard Hanratty, a partner at Browne Jacobson who provides public law advice to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
He later said, while speaking on a forum organised by Dubai Science Park, “Innovation is a need. You will run into severe problems in the future if you don’t innovate.”
The statistics support the assertion that the area supports novel concepts. For instance, according to a recently published report by the Dubai Healthcare City Authority, the value of the region’s health tech startup ecosystem has increased by 22 times since 2016 to over USD 1.5 billion.
However, spending is still increasing and is anticipated to do so in the future because of population growth, an increase in life expectancy, and a rise in non-communicable diseases and lifestyle-related disorders.
According to the exact estimate, healthcare spending in the GCC will reach USD 99.6 billion in 2023 (up from USD 86.2 billion in 2020), with the UAE and Saudi Arabia accounting for over 80% of the total. This demonstrates the importance of preventative care for long-term sustainability.
Gerard Hanratty continued, “The patient experience is going to improve, and we’re going to move from ‘sick’ care to ‘health’ care; proper preventative care.”
He was speaking about the significance of technology and data for preventive care.
Healthcare is becoming affordable and effective with the use of data science, wearables, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The UAE is also witnessing a transition towards a much more refined data-centric approach to healthcare. Data is crucial to value-based healthcare (VBHC), a delivery framework that rewards healthcare providers for providing quality treatments to patients rather than quantity.
As per a Zawya report, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is fully backing this concept with EJADAH, a VBHC model first announced in June 2022 that seeks to build on services and preventive care, in order to create a better and cost-effective public health infrastructure. Using artificial intelligence, EJADAH uses data to predict early medical intervention against a disease.
During ‘Arab Health 2023’, the DHA revealed it is to introduce a VBHC model across 30 disease areas for the emirate by 2025. These include asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and renal failure.
Dr. Mohamed Farghaly, a family medicine consultant and EJADAH lead at the DHA, stated that by “implementing an ecosystem that focuses on preventive care and patient-centred care,” the cost of managing non-communicable diseases can be reduced “significantly”.
“Tying into data, we’re closer to achieving a national electronic health record (EHR) across the United Arab Emirates with the integration of Abu Dhabi’s Malaffi and Dubai’s Nabidh platforms into the central national unified medical record program called Riayati,” he commented further.
According to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), Riayati has so far gathered 1.9 billion medical records for 9.5 million patients, which can be accessed by over 90,000 health service providers in 3,057 medical facilities.
A national EHR also allows clinics and hospitals to access real-time data on patients’ medical history.
“The integration is a step in the right direction towards enhancing community health and safety,” said Dr. Hamed Ali Al Hashemi, advisor to the chairman of DoH.
Once considered merely a wellness device, wearables have now evolved with a multitude of products entering the clinical territory.
According to Market Data Forecast, the wearable medical devices market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is estimated to be worth USD 896.76 million by 2027, from USD 389.17 million in 2022.
When used correctly, these devices can keep patients accountable and improve their health outcomes.
Ali Hashemi is co-founder and CEO of the hybrid digital therapeutics company, Meta[bolic], which runs GluCare.Health, an integrative diabetes centre that combines traditional physical care with ongoing digital care including remote patient monitoring.
Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Health and G42 Healthcare, an artificial intelligence-focused health tech company, enjoyed a strong presence at the ‘Arab Health 2023’ conference, announcing several strategic partnerships during the four-day event.
Emirates Health Services (EHS) too joined the artificial intelligence bandwagon by launching ‘Care AI’, a smart healthcare facility supported by artificial intelligence for self-monitoring and tracking patient behaviour.