By Staff writer
Arjen Radder, CEO of Philips Middle East and Turkey, outlines the challenges of the healthcare sector in the MENA region
What are the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry in the region?
We see a number of challenges impacting the healthcare industry in the Middle East including, a fast growing population, increase in obesity and rise of chronic diseases in addition to lack of healthcare workforce. Healthcare systems in the region need to tackle the growth in chronic diseases from both the treatment viewpoint, but perhaps more importantly through prevention of common disease states like diabetes before they begin.
How can Philips Help to address those challenges?
Today we see number of trends emerging in the healthcare sector, but the challenge remains to meet the growing demands for care and still keep health services at an affordable cost.
Earlier this year, we shared our vision during Arab Health 2015 on how Philips will leverage its unique position and experience in professional healthcare with our deep knowledge of consumer behaviours to develop a connected health approach empowering people to take responsibility for their own health first through healthy living and then ensuring they get the appropriate diagnosis, treatment and support, all along one health continuum.
On the prevention end of the spectrum, Philips is delivering products and solutions that support people to eat more healthily, maintain proper dental and oral care and breathe easier when they sleep which is one of the aspects we start with to empower people maintain their health outside the doctor’s office.
An example of connected health is a recently completed telehealth home clinical study program conducted between Philips and Banner Health for patients with multiple chronic conditions. This program focused on most complex and highest cost patients that are the Intensive Ambulatory Care (IAC) group of patients where the study results were focused on clinical and financial goals. The six months program demonstrated a reduced cost of care by 27% primarily driven by reduction of hospital days and professional service required, reduced acute and long term costs by 32% and reduced hospitalisation by 45%.
Such type of joint efforts between government and private sector in applying mobile, digital and cloud based solutions can clearly help in improving patient outcomes and profoundly reduce costs and hospitalisation.
In the Middle East we are determined to deliver solutions across the health continuum to empower people live healthier lives and enable care providers make better informed decisions. We have amazing opportunities that we can work on together with the governments and healthcare partners to help people lead healthier lives and face the rising challenges.
Are MENA governments spending enough on the sector?
With the continuous rise in chronic diseases and unbalanced healthy lifestyles the World Health Organisation expects the number of non-communicable diseases to increase from 36 million in 2008 to 55 million in 2030 unless preventative action is taken.
It is not about increasing spending; it’s about organising health systems differently around the biggest challenges and deploying resources to prevent illness before it begins and then managing individuals in a personalised way depending on their disease state. We need to focus on how and where efforts should be deployed for the best outcomes.
Given the increasing burden of chronic disease in the region it is more important than ever before to take a multi-stakeholder approach to care. Philips is committed to working with government and care providers to understand how we can best support the needs of patients in the Middle East.
How can governments and private segment encourage more citizens to work more in the sector?
As a company we are committed to supporting professional development through a number of partnership programs with hospitals and universities. For example, we provide application training as well as clinical competencies to more than 2000 healthcare professionals a year across the region both in hospitals and in our dedicated learning centres in Beirut, Dubai, Istanbul and Riyadh, with the goal of improving hospital throughput as well as patient outcomes. A recent partnership with the American University of Sharjah’s Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society was signed to explore opportunities for Philips to support the student’s development.
Transforming healthcare in the Middle East starts with excellent healthcare professionals and health systems and we are positive that increasing educational programs and mentoring opportunities will help local clinical talent become the region’s next generation of healthcare professionals.
What steps can be taken to reduce the threat of non-communicable diseases?
Today’s healthcare systems are designed around acute treatment rather than prevention which is why we are advocating care along the healthcare continuum, starting with prevention. We strongly believe that empowering people to take responsibility for their own healthcare will make a positive difference in the fight against non-communicable diseases. Public awareness campaigns that encourage people to eat more healthily, be active and seek early diagnosis for disease states such as breast cancer is just the starting point.
How important is IT to the development of the regional sector?
We believe that connected health technology will have a leading role in the region in the future. In fact, today we see the benefits of technology already playing a big role both across all the steps of the health continuum.
Consumers are already well accepting the role of technology in their lives to stay connected with others, think about the rise in mobile phones and the penetration of social media. Now we are finding more and more ways to smartly use that technology to monitor our personal health via our heart rate, sleep pattern, caloric intake and movement – the next step is the utilization of that information to prevent or manage chronic diseases.
Also on the other end of the spectrum, technology is playing an important role to support clinicians to provide better care for patients in intensive care. In communities away from clinical hubs Philips offers the eICU, a remote monitoring service that gives access to improved patient monitoring and clinical decision support when and where it is needed. It combines people, technology and process to improve clinical workflow, financial outcomes and above all save lives. Hospitals using Philips eICU program have shown to reduce mortality by 26% and length of stay by 20% in a recent study in multicenter conducted on 119,000 patients.
What regulatory steps can MENA governments take to improve the provision of healthcare in the region?
Given the varying regulations in the healthcare industry across the Middle East region, we see that in most countries this segment is still in flux and with gains to be made in different areas.
As stated earlier, today’s healthcare systems are designed around acute treatment rather than prevention or even home care. So is the healthcare regulatory system. Therefore we see opportunities in harmonising and adapting to a future of connected and out-of-hospital care.
With the continuous rise in chronic diseases we might also note the continuous rise in healthcare expenditure, thus governments in this region have a huge opportunity to early on adapt their rules and regulations toward more sustainable health systems.