Six key dis­rupters to the health­care sec­tor

Tech­nol­ogy trends that are chang­ing the face of UAE health­care

Arabian Business English - - COMMENT -

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.


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