Healthcare reforms must focus on value-based care
Despite a downhearted global economic outlook, fuelled by regional geo-political factors and fluctuating oil prices, the Middle East's healthcare sector has continued to grow throughout 2018. Furthermore, the private sector is still considered a key ally in the long-term development of the healthcare industry in the Middle East.
The young and fast-growing population, high prevalence of lifestyle diseases, rising cost of treatment, poor lifestyle habits and increasing penetration of health insurance are some of the key factors spurring on the growth of the healthcare market in the region
An industry built on strong foundations
Overall the success of the healthcare industry can be linked to the UAE's leadership vision to make world-class healthcare locally available in the UAE. The government has been working with all relevant health authorities as well as public and private sector hospitals to ensure majority hospitals achieve the necessary national and international standards of accreditation. In fact, UAE is one of the leading countries globally to have the maximum number of JCI accredited hospitals.
The UAE's leadership has also been instrumental in driving growth in the healthcare sector via funding and investment. For 2019 UAE Cabinet has approved the largest federal budget in the country's history of which the healthcare system will receive Dh4.4 billion. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to finance innovation, valued at Dh2 billion, also looks at funding innovation in the healthcare sector.
There were some interesting trends in 2018 that have both challenged and produced opportunities for healthcare providers ranging from demographic changes, cost optimisation, public private partnerships, insurance penetration, medical tourism and AI in technology
Outlook in 2019 and beyond
In 2019, we believe hospitals need to look at how they provide value based care. With so many hospitals suffering from cost optimisation measures and other economical factors, we believe healthcare reform needs to look at how healthcare providers can provide value based healthcare which looks at prevention and efficiency as key pillars in healthcare reform.
Rather than focusing on profits and growth, healthcare providers need to think about how to keep patients out of hospitals and how to fight and prevent lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. In turn this will lead to a healthier and ease the burden on the healthcare system.
The value based healthcare system looks at bolstering the efficiency of hospitals and clinics in a way that optimises the services they provide. This allows providers to focus on tackling illness and diseases directly rather than on a one-on-one basis. This means looking at how the outcomes achieved per specific patient group rather the activities or procedures undertaken for each patient.
For this framework to be successful there must be a culture of collaboration in the healthcare industry. At Aster DM Healthcare, this is something we have already began to activate across our network. We encourage our clinics and doctors to exchange knowledge across the board whether it relates to treatment, procedures or prevention.
The methodology of value based care is something that is imprinted in our DNA. We do not differentiate when it comes to patients. At Aster we exist to provide medical care to all population groups. With such a commitment, we have been able to stick to our promise of providing the highest level of care across all of our network of hospitals, pharmacies and clinics.
Healthcare providers such as ourselves need to look at how we can streamline healthcare implementation and efficiency. We believe that value based care can be further enhanced through the use of technology which can make quality healthcare easily accessible for the people in accordance with their fast-paced lifestyles. Technology like AI, telehealth, teleconsulting will ensure timely intervention and proactive efforts from medical professionals to help patients.
Achieving higher sustainability rates
There are various benefits of a value-based hospital. For one, patients spend less money to achieve better health by undertaking fewer doctor visits, medical tests and procedures and spend less money on medication, while providers will achieve greater levels of efficiency and greater levels of patient satisfaction. For integrated providers such as ourselves, this means helping our patients to navigate through our network of facilities to find the best providers for their specific needs and offer our unique capabilities to a wider audience base.
At Aster DM Healthcare, we continue to drive growth in the UAE, and as part of our commitment, Aster Hospital, Qusais, Dubai has been recently launched to offer a broad range of high quality private care services coupled with excellent standards.
In 2017-18, we treated 15 million patients in the GCC. Covering day to day incidents and advanced complex medical care, we have expanded our capacity significantly in GCC; from 145 operating units in FY13 to 350 operating facilities in 9 countries at present. We have two planned hospitals in Dubai, another in Sharjah and expansion of existing facility in Riyadh with the combined capacity of 307 beds in the pipeline. We see rapid medical advancements and the evolving demographic of the GCC population as the roots of future growth.
Another healthcare-related area of growth for Aster DM Healthcare is technology. Advances in medical technology and the adoption of integrated healthcare models are being utilised in all our operational regions to transform the way healthcare is implemented and delivered across the GCC and wider region. To this end, we have already implemented innovative, forward thinking solutions such as "Aster Chronic Care@Home", which offers a distance monitoring system, and online pharmacy (asteronline.com) leading the fusion of healthcare and technology, making quality care accessible and affordable for all.
The writer is founder chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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