Six key disrupters to the healthcare sector
Technology trends that are changing the face of UAE healthcare
GIVEN THE HEADY PACE at which technology is evolving, it is no surprise that most industries are now required to either adopt these technologies or run the risk of being left behind both in terms of digitalisation and profitability. The healthcare industry is no exception, and actually stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this disruption.
Be it data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, internet of things (IoT) or cloud computing, 3D printing and augmented reality, these technological innovations are fast changing the process of healthcare delivery across the world.
The UAE has been at the forefront of embracing many of these technologies, as part of its national agenda to develop a world-class healthcare system. Here are five game-changing developments that could completely change the face of the healthcare sector in the country in the coming years.
1. Artificial intelligence
The UAE’s seriousness to adopt this technology is apparent given that the government appointed its first Minster of State for Artificial Intelligence last year. This set in motion the government’s AI strategy that outlined five themes including crash prevention and the reduction of traffic, disease prevention and increased forestation.
The usage of AI is expected to dramatically transform the healthcare industry as tools like deep learning, which helps analyse a massive amount of data to predict an outcome, can assist decisionmaking and diagnose diseases at a much faster rate.
As the UAE’s national agenda focuses on preventing and/or curing cancer and lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses, technological tools like AI are set to play a very important role in detecting such diseases in advance.
With more than 60 percent of UAE consumers willing to engage with AI and robotics for their healthcare needs, according to a PwC survey, the use of these technologies is only expected to grow manifold in the coming years. Around 34 percent of respondents felt healthcare would be easier and quicker for more people to access if advanced computers or robotics with AI were used.
2. Big data
Central to the success of all these technologies is big data. It is now possible to collect and store this information using various biosensors and nanosensors.
Preventive healthcare solutions, such as wearable biosensors and connected devices that allow constant monitoring of physiological signals such as blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate, are advancing both the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The UAE wearable sensors market was projected to
increase to $3.97m by 2018 at a CAGR of 42 percent over the period of 2015-2020, according to Research & Market, forecast to grow even further in succeeding years.
Nanosensors that can be swallowed or implanted under the skin are also set to be used in large numbers to monitor physical parameters such as temperature, displacement and flow inside the body.
3. Human genome
Genomics, on the other hand, can help collect information stored in our genes as the process focuses on the function, mapping and editing of genomes. To enhance the research and development in this field, the Ministry of Health and Prevention last year unveiled the UAE Human Genome Project that will create a genome database of all genetic diseases right across the country.
As the UAE looks to make use of the advancements in the areas of genetic medicine, tools such as DNA profiling and genome sequencing are expected play a vital role for clinical care in the future.
4. Virtual doctors
Even though we are in the era of AI and robotics, and machines are expected to take charge of the more specialised operations, real doctors and medical practitioners will still be needed for the majority of the diagnosis and treatment processes. However, they too will increasingly rely on technology to expedite and smoothen the healthcare delivery process.
Telemedicine is one such example, where doctors use technology (internet, smartphones and laptops) to diagnose patients sitting miles away. In fact, some centres have already begun to offer this service in Abu Dhabi, although the uptake has been slow so far.
However, the usage of telemedicine is expected to grow in the UAE in the near future as there are multiple studies to suggest that the service can not only increase access to healthcare but also reduce mortality rate, waiting times and travel expenses, and lower costs.
5. 3D Printing
While the usage of 3D printing for healthcare purposes is still at a nascent stage in this part of the world, the trend is expected to gain momentum in the near future, partly because of its ability to offer healthcare solutions at an affordable price. Besides its use for printing prosthetic limbs, 3D printing or addictive manufacture (AM), it is being used today by researchers to customise prescriptions, recreate a patient’s airway passage, or produce living human tissue for skin grafts.
6. Specialised treatment
While the country is embracing many of these technologies to deliver healthcare services in the most smart, cost-effective and innovative ways to millions of patients, both inside and outside hospitals, a large number of UAE residents still travel overseas to receive specialised treatment, including rehabilitation, due to a shortage of such facilities.
According to the Healthcare Capacity Master Plan, released by the Department of Health in June this year, there was a demand for 703 non-acute care beds, of which 234 is for rehabilitation, as of 2016.
By 2030, the demand for non-acute care beds is set to increase to 1,114, of which 445 will be for rehabilitation, 293 for long stay and 376 for disability non-acute care beds.
In order to address this demand, healthcare groups must take the initiative to bridge the gap by developing facilities specifically for specialised treatment such as rehabilitation. These facilities must be fitted with all the latest technological, diagnostic, and therapeutic tools in order to offer genuine breakthrough healthcare solutions.
CENTRAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES IS BIG DATA. IT IS NOW POSSIBLE TO COLLECT AND STORE THIS INFORMATION USING SENSORS” DNA PROFILING AND GENOME SEQUENCING ARE EXPECTED PLAY A VITAL ROLE FOR CLINICAL CARE”