Opinion and Editorial

Technology-driven healthcare systems need of the hour

Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi
Filed on May 4, 2021

Medical infrastructure has been pushed to the brink by the global health crisis and one of the many things it has demonstrated is the urgent need to leverage technology.

From virtual physicians to artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics, the telehealth boom has taken the world by storm. In an industry that is unhurried at embracing reforms, last year was a turning point for healthcare with irrevocable changes to the way we care for a population set to hit 9.7 billion by 2050.

While the UAE has had one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world and life seems relatively normal thanks to the wise vision of our leaders, healthcare systems elsewhere are struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic. Medical infrastructure has been pushed to the brink by the global health crisis and one of the many things it has demonstrated is the urgent need to leverage technology.

Healthcare is among the most promising sectors for rapid adoption of advanced technologies. A recent study by Hewlett Packard Enterprise subsidiary Aruba found that three-quarters of health-tech leaders are implementing trials or applications in areas such as AI, the Internet of Things and machine learning.

The global health crisis has resulted in unprecedented changes to healthcare delivery. As hospitals continue to care for high-risk patients and administer virtual consultations for less critical cases, there is a growing need for patients to take more responsibility. Providers are massively scaling up telehealth services to ensure patients have on-demand instant virtual visits with physicians. But to ensure that the quality of remote check-ups are on par with in-clinic consultations, patients need to have access to high-quality technology and digital infrastructure.

Action taken in the UAE and wider region has been swift and decisive. Advanced technology and high-speed 5G connectivity have served to accelerate telehealth adoption, which is predicted to continue to grow long after the pandemic as the sector adopts an omnichannel care model that is more efficient.

Telehealth is also becoming a key value proposition for medical tourism. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have robust plans to attract medical tourists in the future with a focus on specialty areas such as orthopaedics, oncology and executive screenings. Pre-pandemic, the Dubai Health Authority was on track to increasing its annual number of overseas visitors from 337,000 in 2018 to 500,000 by 2021.

Over the past decade, the UAE has made notable strides in creating a world-class healthcare system by enhancing the regulatory landscape, improving the quality of existing facilities, and boosting efficiency, transparency and innovation.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry projects that the UAE healthcare sector will grow to Dh39.4 billion by 2025. This data also indicates the growing momentum behind private sector spending. Privatisation and preventative care are considered key factors in driving this market surge, complementing the increasing confidence in the UAE’s healthcare systems and technologies. The growing importance of public-private partnerships cannot be underestimated either. The UAE government’s forward-thinking policies and rapid uptake of smart technologies have resulted in innovative solutions to manage Covid-19 and have significantly led the country’s adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution focused solutions.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that no country can maintain a highly competitive healthcare system at all times that is capable of stepping up to the plate and delivering quality care during a global health crisis — without a robust digital operation. With healthcare facing its greatest upheaval in decades, strong, technology-driven response will ensure positive implications that outlast the current health crisis and transform patient care for generations to come.

Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi is managing director, Dubai Science Park and Chairing Member of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Equipment Taskforce

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