‘Region doesn’t need another Western healthcare system’

‘Region doesn’t need another Western healthcare system’

Potential for something much better exists here, says expert.

By Kelly Clarke - Reporter

Published: Fri 12 Jun 2015, 12:50 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Dubai — In order to get ahead in healthcare practice, the Middle East needs to avoid blindly “cutting and pasting” Western healthcare, as the potential for something “much better” exists in the region, an expert has said.

With the UAE’s predominantly younger and connected generation, wealth and continued focus on becoming a medical hub, the platform to dominate the future of healthcare is already here.

“The Middle East is a great market to benchmark a technology-focused healthcare presence. There is money here to invest in cutting-edge technology and the recent initiative to establish a national unified database of patients’ medical records cements its progress in the healthcare industry,” vice-president of Houston Methodist Global Health Care Services EMEA, Dr Sarper Tanli, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Building Healthcare Middle East Exhibition in Dubai.

During a talk titled ‘Healthcare of the Future’, session curator and digital medicine expert, Brian De Francesca, agreed with Dr Tanli. “We shouldn’t just strive for another Western healthcare system. What we should do is expand on their best practice, but get ahead with technology. The opportunities in this region are great.”

In a world that is more connected than ever, the industry is witnessing the dawn of an era of wearable technology. From personal activity trackers to Google Glass, wearables personalise medical knowledge.

With new technology comes added mobility, and mobility brings about change in healthcare, Dr Tanli said. “The biggest impact of wearables is how it makes health a matter of daily life and how it increases interaction between different people.”

In a recent report by ContractIQ, it is estimated that by 2020, the world population will stand at 7.6 billion. With the number of connected devices per person pitted at 6.58, the number of worldwide connected devices will stand at 50 billion.

Noting increased patient engagement as the key to building a stronger healthcare future, Dr Tanli said technology is integral to improving employee engagement and population health.

However, although people in the UAE are willing to buy wearables, the challenge is “keeping them engaged”. “30 to 40 per cent of people stop using wearables after six months, so engagement is still an issue. We need to involve people more.”

One way of getting the most out of these wearbales is by compiling the generated data into meaningful, actionable data — and the benefit of doing so will be paramount to both the industry and the user.

“One area of focus is offering a sister service with the product, where the buyer can link the wearable to a healthcare centre to stay connected with their healthcare advisor. That way their health can be monitored,” he said.

Though the actuality of such a service is not yet available anywhere around the world, the possibility is being discussed in the US, and Dr Tanli said they are looking to bring the idea to the table in this region.

“Online and mobile technology is huge in this region and we see such a high percentage of people utilises such services. I think this type of connected service will be up and running within a few years here.”

As Expo 2020 approaches, the opportunities relating to healthcare are endless. With health slated as one of the country’s most investable sectors, experts should use the event to encourage technology companies to launch products here.

“We need to promote innovation incubation. That way we will not have to look to the West for best practice ideas in the future,” Dr Tanli said.


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