Opinion: Technology continues to push the Middle East healthcare sector forward

On the eve of Arab Health, the rapidly advancing technological landscape will continue to shape healthcare in 2018
By Ross Williams
Tue 23 Jan 2018 11:16 AM

The healthcare sector is one that is constantly changing.

In the Middle East, the market has seen many opportunities over the past few years, particularly in the GCC, as governments across the region have highlighted healthcare as a key focus area for the coming years, in light of local economic, demographic and epidemiological transitions in these countries.

Investments to upgrade hospitals and clinics, build new facilities, and enforce mandatory health insurance schemes have all been made recently, with governments also encouraging the private sector to invest in healthcare.

This has been driven by various factors that have led to high rates of illness and mortality caused by chronic diseases, including urbanisation and a rise in health risk factors such obesity, low physical activity and smoking.

The convergence of major healthcare trends, including a growing population with high levels of chronic disease and long-term conditions in the region, technological innovation and digital disruption in healthcare, have propelled the growth of the healthcare industry.

Stakeholders are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to deliver patient-centred, technology-enabled “smart” healthcare, both inside and outside clinic and hospital walls, with “quality”, “outcomes”, and “value” being the current industry buzzwords.

According to a research report by MENA Research Partners (MRP), the UAE’s healthcare sector alone is set to grow by 60 percent to AED103bn ($28bn) by 2021.

Embracing technology

In 2018, technology transformation will continue to be a key focus across all medical fields. This won’t just be from a clinical point of view as diagnostics and treatments become more advanced but also in connected care, where we also see a telehealth perspective.

Wearable technologies and connected devices are transforming the industry. Patients are becoming more aware of their health through information available at their fingertips. It is predicted that by 2020, the number of connected wearable devices worldwide is expected to reach 830 million, up from the 325 million devices currently in use, according to Statista.

Wearable devices worldwide are expected to reach 830 million by 2020

In the UAE alone, the wearable sensors market is expected to increase to almost AED14.6m ($4m) by 2018.

Telemedicine applications are also surging due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases, smartphone use, and the consistent need for improved quality services.

As adoption rates continue to rise, such solutions have the potential to help patients and clinicians to monitor chronic conditions, as well keep track of fitness, blood pressure and even sleep quality.

With wearable technology becoming an essential part of our daily life, Arab Health 2018 – the largest gathering of healthcare and trade professionals in the MENA region – will see the introduction of the Personal Healthcare Technology Zone. This addition brings an essential element to the exhibition this year, as it will provide industry professionals and visitors the opportunity to explore the latest in smart healthcare technology that remotely connects patients to physicians and hospitals.

The dawn of 3D

Innovation and excellence will also continue to be a major theme in the sector throughout 2018. The UAE is at the forefront of such developments, with the UAE National Agenda aiming to create “a world-class healthcare system” as part of the UAE Vision 2021.

In addition to this, the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims to exploit technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE as a leading hub of 3D printing technology by 2030. Within the medical products sector, the UAE will focus on developing 3D printed teeth, bones, artificial organs, medical and surgical devices and hearing aids. The value of these products in Dubai is expected to reach AED1.7bn ($463m) by 2025.

Globally, 3D printing has revolutionised the healthcare sector enabling the creation of life-changing products and devices. Through 3D printing, prosthetics can be tailor-made at a relatively low cost within a very short period of time. But beyond cost savings, these technological advancements are truly life changing, with the quality of life improving drastically for patients.

Last year, Arab Health partnered with one of its sponsors to donate a 3D printer – the Ultimaker 3 – to Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF). This is now being utilised in a refugee camp in Jordan to improve the design of prosthesis, benefitting its patients.

In addition, a leading neurosurgeon based in the Netherlands, Dr Bon Verweij, implanted the world’s first total cranial skull using 3D print technology in a 23-hour long surgery. Dr Verweij will be speaking at the 3D Medical Printing conference, now CME accredited, at Arab Health 2018, which will highlight key challenges involved in the implementation of medical 3D printing practices.

As we continue to harness the power of technology to its full potential, medical feats will be even more impactful. With significant investment in the healthcare sector across the GCC, the future of the industry in the region is full of opportunities – and 2018 will be yet another stepping stone in its development.

Arab Health 2018

When: January 29-February 1 (10am-6pm)
Where: Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre


The 3D revolution

Dr Bon Verweij, leading neurosurgeon and speaker at Arab Health 2018

“I think 3D printing is going to change the world. Dubai has a 3D printing strategy and it is the perfect place to combine healthcare with 3D printing. You can introduce innovations from outside the medical field; we can talk about 3D printing, virtual reality, big data. If you are at the forefront of those innovations, giving talks, and explaining the research, people get interested to do it themselves. Then they realise that 3D printing is also cheaper than all the other techniques and much better. My quest will be to show people how to use it. By showing cases, I hope I will make people enthusiastic about it.”

Up for discussion

Some of the key conferences at Arab Health 2018

Personal Healthcare Technology Zone
A new element for 2018 that showcases new personalised healthcare products and services.
When: January 29-February 1

Family Medicine Conference
Experts discuss diabetes, liver disease, dermatologic conditions, infectious disease, immunisation, cancer and thyroid diseases.
When: January 29-30

Connected Care Conference
Gathering experts in the fields of digital health, patient telehealth and home and long-term care.
When: January 29-31

3D Medical Printing Conference
A global perspective on the key challenges involved in the implementation of medical 3D printing practices.
When: January 29-30

Ross Williams, Exhibition Director, Arab Health 2018

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