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Sun 3 Feb 2019 05:29 PM

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Unlocking the pathway to preventative healthcare with mHealth

A blockchain-based approach to sharing patient data has been incredibly useful in terms of meeting patient expectations and enabling holistic healthcare. blockchain technology has been able to streamline and transform every aspect

Unlocking the pathway to preventative healthcare with mHealth
Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President IOT Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

Last year the UAE government started developing and implementing a strategy to combat obesity among citizens. While some measures included heavy taxation on soft and energy drinks, other measures included promoting physical activity. 

The Ministry of Economy, Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi and the Department of Health also launched the Technology and Innovation Pioneers Healthcare award to raise awareness and engage tech start-ups in the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases, smoking and chronic conditions like asthma.

This year, the UAE cabinet approved its largest ever budget, of AED180 billion ($49bn), allocating 7.3 percent for healthcare.

Just as smartphones and tablets have changed consumer lifestyles, mHealth (mobile health) is improving patient care, shortening hospital stays and promoting healthier lifestyles with innovative solutions.

Widespread cellular coverage and developments in healthcare technology have made it possible to assist patients who require round the clock care, such as patients of Alzheimer’s, autism and special needs.

It is now possible to monitor vital parameters outside patient homes, allowing for faster reaction time and easy handsfree calling when help is needed.

One of the most important developments has been in the realm of remote disease management solutions, which help control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity with continuous two-way communications with healthcare providers.

Obesity and diabetes have been identified as two of the biggest health concerns for people of all ages in the UAE in previous years. The country has been investing time and money in developing a clear road map for combatting and controlling non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Diabetes rates in the UAE have dropped from 19.3 percent in 2017 to 11.8 percent in 2018.

However, a new report by Colliers International revealed that the number of diabetic patients in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to increase by an alarming 110 percent to 82 million over the next 26 years.

The report, published ahead of the Arab Health conference, also highlighted that the economic burden of diabetes will jump from $21.3 billion in 2017, to $35.5 billion by 2045.

Mobile health solutions that simplify gathering, sharing and storing data between patient and healthcare professionals are increasing the manageability of the chronic condition.

Gemalto’s eSIM and On Demand Connectivity facilitates remote data accessibility, empowering patients to take control of their own medication and simplifying interaction with healthcare professionals. Partnering with regional telecom providers equips healthcare professionals with accurate and timely information, increasing efficiency within the healthcare sector.

On a personal level, technology has the ability to augment and enhance our way of living, through artificial intelligence built into our personal digital assistants (or is it assets?), or through smart watches and fitness trackers that help monitor our well-being. The trackers count steps, indicate heart rate, monitor sleep quality and most importantly, give feedback.

These trackers have become instrumental to preventative healthcare. It is a miniature data acquisition system that uses sensors to detect personal characteristics.

Most trackers collect this data, analyse it and present it to users in a useful way. This data can now also be used not only to initiate a healthier lifestyle, but also to provide medical professionals with data necessary to identify certain lifestyle disorders such as vitamin deficiencies, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and poor cardio vascular health.

The healthcare industry relies on an endless variety of medical devices to assess patient wellbeing, from weight scales and thermometers to blood pressure devices, oxygen monitors, glucometers and heart rate monitors.

These devices work as individual units, measuring different aspects of patient health and equipping healthcare providers with data to get a complete picture of overall health. Modern healthcare IT systems have improved and simplified this task by aggregating, visualising and managing patient data on web-based medical platforms.

From the patient’s point of view, their medical record is a single series of sequential care events, regardless of where these events were performed. Whilst sharing healthcare data between institutions is challenging, patient records are not unlike those of a distributed ledger.

A blockchain-based approach to sharing patient data has been incredibly useful in terms of meeting patient expectations and enabling holistic healthcare. blockchain technology has been able to streamline and transform every aspect of healthcare, from medical records and payments to processing and analytics. Virtually everyone benefits, from patients and customers to providers, administrators and institutions.

Internet of Things is taking this one step further by leveraging mobile technology and enabling devices to automatically send real time data to back end IT systems via wireless networks. This technology, known as mHealth is transforming the medical industry, enabling new services, improving patient care and reducing time and cost inefficiencies.

Most recently, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Healthcare City Authority signed a MoU to link the DHA’s Sheryan smart licensing system and Masaar e-services portal through the blockchain network for licensing healthcare professionals. The MoU will allow for the exchange of licensing data of health professionals to improve services and facilitate licensing and transfer of personnel in Dubai.

The increased awareness surrounding the benefits of eHealth systems is expected to contribute substantially towards the development of the global market. In the UAE, Artificial Intelligence is expected to contribute $96 billion by 2030. mHealth solutions continue to have a transformative effect on the medical industry, for patients and medical health professionals alike.

Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President IOT Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

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