Tech innovations reshape healthcare in the UAE

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The UAE Air Force’s aerobatic team, Al Fursan conducts a show over Shaikh Khalifa General Hospital in Ajman. This event is organised to appreciate the fundamental role played by the nation’s medical, administrative and technical staff, who are working round the clock under tough circumstances to ensure public safety and health during the pandemic
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

With the world looking fundamentally different after nearly a year of the coronavirus pandemic, public health scenarios are changing quickly amid an uncertain future. Covid-19 has seen the healthcare industry shift towards new models of value-based care (VBC), while technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and data analytics are helping to see paths for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients.

Tech trends

“The healthcare delivery model of diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and monitoring has seen a major shift during the pandemic and this shift can be attributed to the immediate need for patients to access healthcare in a safe environment and for healthcare providers to ensure that they continue to provide the best possible care to their patients and customers,” explains Dr Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare. He cites the aforementioned technologies alongside robots, automation systems and apps as tools helping healthcare providers transcend boundaries for accessing care.

“This has also helped public health systems across countries to control the surge [in cases] through digital contract tracing and isolation of potential and positive patients as required.”

The National Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Management and Governance Committee in the UAE has been tasked with looking at how AI, 5G and other technologies can not only help in the management of cases now but also help a range of sectors recover economically after the pandemic has subsided.

Hein Van Eck, Chief Strategy Officer at Mediclinic Middle East, says AI, algorithms and big data have allowed healthcare providers to create solutions that draw on conclusions based on symptoms. “The technology is based on probabilistic modeling and a set of statistical algorithms that improve over time by utilising two primary sources — medical experts and machine learning.

“These solutions will continue to provide increasingly more sophisticated and personalised health assessments and will be able to take into account the full medical history where available, as well as data from an even broader range of sensors, devices and other sources.”

The UAE’s largest healthcare network, Abu Dhabi Healthcare Services (SEHA), has been working with health information tech firm Cerner to develop smart electronic medical records (EMRs) that are contexualising data to treat a range of conditions, including acute kidney injuries.

“EMR is now no longer just used for billing purposes and recording data, and is increasingly used to help support doctors to make better decisions,” says Dr Ali Al Obaidli, Chief Medical Officer at SEHA Kidney Care.

For Dr Moopen, 2020 has seen a boom in teleconsultations. At Aster we introduced these services during the UAE National Sterilisation Programme and they have been growing in popularity since. While he says data analytics will help Aster with remote monitoring and early intervention in the long run, critical care experts across the network were able to use telemonitoring to remotely monitor ICUs at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Value-based care

Dr Moopen explains, “We are increasingly witnessing a shift in the healthcare domain towards VBC in order to control cost and we have been in the process of reducing input cost to control the cost of overall delivery of services for many years.” He points to the recent disease-related grouping (DRG) by health authorities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “This will help in linking performance on cost and quality rather than fee for service,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mediclinic already has VBC models in place for dealing with outpatient services. “The models monitor quality of care, whilst sharing the responsibility for the utilisation of services and therefore the cost of care for the healthcare insurer. We are currently also working on value-based remote patient monitoring, which is a subscription model for looking after chronic disease patients,” says Van Eck. ●

The UAE’s vaccine role

Last week’s news of Abu Dhabi’s work to become a global logistics hub for vaccine distribution is undoubtedly positive, with Etihad Cargo and the Hope Consortium helping to transport five million coronavirus vaccines in November.
Alongside Etihad Cargo, consortium members include Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Rafed, the healthcare procurement arm of Abu Dhabi-based ADQ, and SkyCell of Switzerland, which develops cutting-edge, temperature-controlled transport containers for the pharmaceutical industry. SkyCell will establish a regional service and manufacturing centre in the capital as part of its role in the consortium, which aims to develop the logistical capacity to handle more then six billion vaccine doses in 2021.

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