Four forces shaping the future of healthcare in the UAE

Consumers to start benefiting from various innovations in 2017
“One of the key trends to watch-out for will be innovative partnerships,” says Thumbay Group’s VP Akbar Moideen Thumbay.
By Akbar Moideen Thumbay
Wed 15 Feb 2017 03:10 PM

In 2017 and beyond, consumers will finally start to benefit from some of the innovations that have been evolving over the past year, from 3D prosthetics to customised insurance packages. Many of these trends will be cemented in our routine lives over the next couple of years.

Innovative insurance

A new era has dawned on the UAE’s insurance industry since the rollout of the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) mandatory health insurance scheme. On the whole, the insurance market is embracing transformation, coming up with innovative products and services to increase accessibility and superior customer experience.

One of the key trends will be innovative partnerships to bring new products in the market, for example, fitness centres tying-up with insurance companies that monitor a person’s habits and thereby provide an assessment of their lifestyle and activity levels.

This data could help customers avail lower premiums by improving on their unhealthy behaviours. The resulting market would be filled with new entrants and millions of new customers that will foster fierce competition over quality and price. For entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to examine how key healthcare players are driving changes to accommodate mandatory health-insurance, and come-up with strategies and services that the current and future market actors will need.

The insurance industry, of course, is not an easy one to operate in. Heavy regulations, stiff competition from multi-billion dollar firms and an increasing level of newly formed start-ups, makes for an uphill battle, but for those that can overcome these challenges, there is a significant opportunity to solve a big problem and scale their businesses while doing it. So, those who fail to rise to the occasion and meet customer expectation will undoubtedly struggle and run the risk of disappearing altogether.

Connected consumers

Digital technology is a key focus.

For 2017, consumers will largely drive healthcare related queries, with the help of smart devices, mobile apps and online healthcare service portals. These technologies will clearly close the gap between caregivers/doctors and patients, streaming communication and interactions seamlessly.

Subsequently, the constant generation of information and data through real time communication will lead to another growing trend of smart data that focusses on data collection and data analytics, which enables healthcare providers to customise services and improve overall quality of delivery. However, as new concepts, digital and technological trends take the healthcare market by storm, there will be a constant need for healthcare service providers and businesses to adapt to the online behaviour of the consumers.

For start-ups catering to this sector, the key challenge will be keeping-up pace with the constantly evolving digital trends, while they are focusing on establishing their core business. Having said that, it is vital for them to stay accustomed with the digital trends to be able to spot opportunities that will help them step up their services, offering improvised products and delivery.

Cross-sector collaborations

Another promising trend that’s likely to emerge in the UAE is the alliance of unorthodox businesses across different sectors in a concerted effort to enhance healthcare experience for patients. Globally, there have been examples of healthcare providers and taxi service companies partnering together to deliver a doctor at the patient’s door -24/7 round the clock.

So, demand for innovative healthcare services and products are driving strategic partnerships, offering multiple opportunities for start-ups in the Middle East.

The knowledge, however, is only the first step towards gaining clarity on your future opportunities, but the outcome will depend on how the organisation capitalises on the micro opportunities at their industry and country level.

What’s required from today’s entrepreneurs is not necessarily the creation of a new smartphone, but the creation of powerful new utilisation methods and tools to execute the ideas.

Rise of the 3-D technology to customise health

Yet another revolution is underway in the world of health due to the growing prevalence of 3-D printing technology, which is so far being used in in many fields such as aerospace, architecture and industrial design. Owing to advances in 3D printing and virtual reality, tailored products, such as casts, prosthetics, wearables, and a variety of patient-designed solutions, will be made to order using software and printed-at-home technology.

It represents a major milestone in not just the functionality and aesthetics of artificial limbs, but also the accessibility of them. In less than a decade, it will lead to the creation of a new category of homemade devices that will become accessible to thousands of people who prefer niche health and wellness products.

As the maker-movement ushers in, there will be a requirement for new business models. If entrepreneurs find success in creating services that empower healthcare, abiding to the rules and regulatory frameworks that are in place, they will create new opportunities for people to engage and do business.

Akbar Moideen Thumbay, Vice-president of the healthcare division of Thumbay Group, a DIFC-headquartered international business conglomerate.

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