In the march towards the future, most industries and sectors have experienced significant disruption to how they are delivered, operated, or even spurned new solutions, often driven by technological advances. The Healthcare sector is no different, the influence of technology can be felt, and the dramatic effects represent a fundamental shift in how healthcare is provided.
Digital health adoption
In the UAE, the adoption of digital health technology is on the rise. According to survey data from Boston Consulting Group, 71 per cent of respondents in the UAE searched for medical information online, 66 per cent booked medical appointments online, and 41 per cent used video telemedicine. These trends continue to grow as more people turn to digital health solutions to meet their healthcare needs.
Digital health is revolutionising the world of healthcare and improving patient outcomes in various ways. It encompasses many areas, including systems and platforms that empower consumers to manage their lifestyle, wellness and health; devices that collect, store or transmit health data; and tools that enhance life sciences and clinical processes. These innovative technologies hold the potential to improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and increase access to care through faster diagnoses and in-home treatment options instead of traditional healthcare facilities.
These technology solutions present numerous possibilities for identifying healthcare needs and delivering care, from preventive measures and diagnosis to interventions and self-care management.
The UAE and the world are witnessing unprecedented adoption of digital health, resulting in patients receiving the care they need faster, more conveniently and at a lower cost. At the same time, healthcare providers can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.
In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the development, application, and take up of digital health solutions, emerging as a vital tool in ensuring continuity of care.
Digital health is nothing short of a significant step into the future, which both clinicians and patients are feeling, but its future possibilities could make it a revolutionary leap in healthcare delivery, on par with the introduction of penicillin.
For governments, digital health is an attractive proposition for several reasons. It can benefit healthcare access, quality of care, and workforce productivity, with a savings opportunity of 12 per cent.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, this would equate to $1.5tn to $3tn in savings a year by 2030. These savings are derived from enhancements in workforce productivity due to automation; higher patient adherence to medications and precision management plans leading to reduced emergency department visits and inpatient stays; early access to care and enhanced triaging through telemedicine.
At Arab Health exhibition held recently in Dubai, there was a vast array of digital health solutions on display, showing the level of interest in meeting the needs of the region’s healthcare professionals. It’s a market valued at $10bn across the Middle East over the next five years and $230bn globally.
A country that is at the forefront of the digital health sector is Ireland. With a strong technology, healthcare, and academia ecosystem combined with proactive government support, Ireland has become a hub for the innovation, development, production and commercialisation of technologies and a leader in digital healthcare.
Over 20 Irish companies were in Dubai last week to showcase their leading solutions to healthcare buyers, most of which were in the medtech sector.
Trends in digital health
As we look to the future, we can envision several futuristic trends in digital health based on the direction of innovation we see today.
- Virtual reality-based consultations in the metaverse: Virtual reality technology could provide patients with immersive and interactive medical consultations when and where they need it, allowing for more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
- Implantable medical devices: The use of implantable medical devices, such as sensors or microchips, to continuously monitor a patient’s health status and provide real-time data to healthcare providers.
- Personalised medicine: The use of a patient’s genetic and medical data to create personalised treatment plans tailored to the individual’s unique needs.
- Blockchain-based medical records: The use of blockchain technology to create a secure and decentralised system for storing and sharing patient medical records, providing greater privacy and security.
- 3D printing in medicine: The use of 3D printing to create customised medical devices, prosthetics, and even organs for patients.
Digital health technologies are accelerating change on two key fronts; shifting the care model to preventive, personalised and participatory and changing the care location to anywhere, anytime.
With the take-up of digital health solutions in the Middle East gathering momentum, driven by the clear case for change, people across the region are set to experience cutting-edge world-class healthcare. By embracing technology, automation, and data, we can transform healthcare in the region and ensure that it is delivered sustainably and cost-effectively. With these digital health solutions, we can meet the changing needs of patients and provide healthcare at a faster pace, enabling a brighter and healthier future for all.
Eamon Sikafi is the commercial counsellor at Enterprise Ireland – MENA