Innovation drives healthcare in the UAE

The health sector is among the fastest-growing in the UAE, with investments expected to rise by over 300 per cent in the next decade



by

Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 12:00 AM

Health tech was already booming before the pandemic. Now it’s turbocharged. As technology accelerates innovation in healthcare, the UAE has emerged as a major force to reckon with in the healthcare sector thanks to its visionary and proactive leadership, robust digital health ecosystem and stellar record in handling Covid-19.

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that the UAE’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) issued an alert about the coronavirus outbreak even before it was declared by WHO as a public health emergency of international concern.

During the pandemic, the entire health machinery swung into action, implementing safety protocols and carrying out mass sterilisation and immunisation campaigns across the country. The results are for all to see.

Today, the UAE ranks third globally and first regionally in the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking. As its economy roars back to life, the UAE continues to raise the bar on healthtech in line with the National Agenda and the National Innovation Strategy.

The nation aims to become a leading international destination for sustainable future in smart healthcare by revamping its healthcare services, developing research centres and readying itself to face possible future diseases by integrating technology in diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

It already ranks first globally in terms of the number of accredited health establishments, of which 85 per cent have obtained global accreditation, as per Joint Commission International (JCI) reports.

According to the World Health Organization, the UAE ranks first in the Middle East in 19 indexes related to addressing public health risks.

The health sector is among the fastest-growing in the UAE, with investments expected to rise by over 300 per cent in the next decade. The country has also become a top health tourism destination due to the growing international trust in its health sector. Medical tourism sales in the UAE crossed Dh12.1 billion in 2018, a growth of 5.5 per cent compared to 2017. The figure is likely to reach nearly Dh20 billion by 2023.

Shorter waiting times, competitive pricing and high quality of patient care make the UAE ideal for medical tourists. Platforms like the Dubai Health Experience (DHX), developed by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism e-portal, launched in 2018 by the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi and the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, offer healthcare packages which include access to a wide range of tourism services such as direct contact with healthcare providers, visa issuance, booking appointments, hotels, transportation, and other recreational activities.

The integration of scientific research, innovation, and digital transformation in improving the quality of health care, has made the UAE a global technology hub for healthcare. Apart from attracting international medical tourists, the UAE, with its numerous medical universities equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, also invites a large number of medicine students and researchers from across the world.

Dubai’s healthcare has undergone rapid advancement and innovation through modernisation of patient service delivery and infrastructure projects. The emirate’s continued investment in primary and specialized health services can be seen through two self-regulated healthcare Free zones — Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park. The world’s first freezone dedicated to life sciences, the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park fosters an environment that supports research, creativity, innovation and passion, ensuring a supportive ecosystem for businesses to establish sustainable and positive change.

On November 23, the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) announced the establishment of a Global Biomedical Industrial Centre in the UAE. This initiative is in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The initiative aims to develop high-tech medical equipment, facilitate the exchange of ideas and innovations in life science, provide a platform for healthcare data sharing, alleviate global disparities in access to medical supplies and innovation, as well as promote the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to better prepare the world to against future threats to healthcare. The project will enhance manufacturing capabilities and strengthen cooperation between governments and enterprises. Adoption of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and 3D printing in the healthcare industry are some other advancements that will make the future of healthcare better.

The decision was inspired by UAE’s remarkable response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with its swift protective measures, strict and effective lockdowns, thorough contact tracing, expeditious and diligent vaccination drives. Drawing on UAE’s tremendous innovation potential, Omar Al Suwaidi, Undersecretary of Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology said,“ The Centre embodies the UAE’s position as an emerging R&D hub employing global standards and transitioning to becoming a regional and global centre for manufacturing.”

The Department of Health - Abu Dhabi (DoH) is the first healthcare regulator in the region, and the second globally to adopt and develop the ‘Population Health Model’ (PHM). The model was developed alongside Novartis, a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, and helps in the early detention, management and holistic prevention of cardiovascular diseases by gathering data to enable healthcare professionals to design necessary preventative and treatment plans. The model uses fundamental concepts of public health to study chronic diseases and use data analysis approaches to identify economical methods to improve patient treatment and care.

According to a Q4 2021 report published by FemTech Analytics, a subsidiary of Deep Knowledge Group, the UAE has been at the forefront of healthcare innovation in the region with one-third of the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) FemTech companies based in the country. The Ministry of Health and Community Prevention has adopted a comprehensive plan that aims to fully integrate the use of artificial intelligence (AI), and achieve total use of data analysis, in line with the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, to improve patient care and health services, as envisioned by the UAE Centennial Plan 2071.

Technological innovations such as the use of AI, robotics and data analysis have revolutionized the healthcare industry. The ideation and application of these technologies has given UAE a global platform to showcase its efforts in ensuring the best possible healthcare for all.


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