Rewind 50 years: UAE healthcare has come a long way

Rewind 50 years: UAE healthcare has come a long way

Dubai - Since 1970, average life expectancy in the UAE has been going up, which now exceeds 76 years.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Fri 20 Dec 2019, 9:25 PM

The UAE has come a long way from having just seven hospitals and 12 health centres in 1971 when the Union was formed to now housing around 200 hospitals, indicating a dramatic growth in its healthcare sector. The healthcare sector has now become one of the key contributors to the UAE economy. The early days of healthcare in Dubai can be traced back to 1943 when a small healthcare centre sprouted in Al Ras area, giving to the first phase of Al Maktoum Hospital in 1951 that was finally completed in 1973 with 157 beds.

Since 1970, average life expectancy in the UAE has been going up, which now exceeds 76 years. The country's various mortality indicators have all improved, especially the infant mortality rate, which is now even better than that of the US.

Talking about experiencing the evolution in the health sector first hand, Dr Azad Moopen, a pioneer of the GCC's healthcare sector and founder chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, said: "The healthcare system in the UAE has developed significantly over the last 50 years. I have witnessed this evolution first-hand, having worked as a doctor in Dubai and associated with the healthcare industry for 33 years. The fourth industrial revolution has played a key role in propelling the industry forward, with medical technologies becoming more advanced and being applied across a range of healthcare services from diagnostics and treatment, to connected care and telehealth. More recently, technologies such as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and artificial intelligence have been increasingly adopted in the healthcare space.

As the UAE progresses into 2020 and looks forward to the next 50 years, Moopen said "we will continue to see a big focus on technology and innovation as needs of patients evolve".

"There will be increased focus on tertiary and quaternary care with advanced procedures like transplants, routinely done in the country. The UAE is poised to become a destination for health tourism catering to the requirement of nearly a billion population in the Mena region," he added.

Excited about how technology is now set to transform the healthcare sector like never before, one of the top young healthcare entrepreneurs of the UAE, Prasanth Manghat, CEO and executive director of NMC Health, said that the next big disruption shall be the healthcare that is set to be transformed by powerful technologies.

"There's nothing quite as exciting as artificial intelligence (AI) right now and we recognise that perfecting and integrating medical AI into the patient care process is a critical component to not only improving overall patient care but also addressing the affordability, availability and accessibility issues in healthcare. AI's highly advanced deep learning models will enable us to build on our existing world-class clinical capabilities as we continue to scale our operations across the GCC and the world."

Mangath said healthcare and technology go hand in hand and innovative technologies in healthcare, especially in remote monitoring of disease via wearable diagnostic gadgets, early diagnosis of a disease, diagnosis and treatment of the diseases much before a child is born and the way we look at some of the degenerative diseases of today, shall change future of healthcare locally and globally.

Talking about how the next 50 years in healthcare will look like, Mangath, who joined the healthcare sector in 2003, said: "AI in healthcare, although still in its infancy stage, holds a lot of promise. Areas under intense research are developing algorithms that use deep learning, machine vision and correlating the patient data with clinical insights to automatically highlight the areas of probable interest to a physician. It also shall play an important role in clinical documentation and record keeping. The overall goal of AI in patient care is to achieve a timelier and an accurate diagnosis."
Technology set to transform the medical field

> The use of artificial intelligence within the healthcare industry is expected to grow rapidly at an annual rate of 40 per cent through 2021

> Robots can help doctors in the operating room and also beyond surgical applications.

> According to a report by market research firm SmarTech Analysis, the market for medical 3D printing is estimated to be worth $1.25 billion

> Genomics, the study of genes, is making it possible to predict, diagnose and treat diseases more precisely and personally than ever.

> Wearable and monitoring tech such as smartwatches can now monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, detect atrial fibrillation and send reports to your doctor and more.

> Quick transmission of images using 5G technology will help doctors deliver treatments through AI, VR and allow for remote monitoring of patients.

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