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Wed 2 Oct 2019 08:24 AM

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Dubai healthcare operator eyes high-tech ways to improve mental health services

Aster DM Healthcare set up an innovation lab earlier this year to spur the next big changes in the healthcare sector

Dubai healthcare operator eyes high-tech ways to improve mental health services
Alisha Moopen, deputy managing director at Aster DM Healthcare

Dubai’s Aster DM Healthcare is looking to technological innovations to help improve the services available within the mental health sector, according to a senior executive at the operator.

Earlier this year, the latest results of the Arab Youth Survey, which carried out 3,300 face-to-face interviews with Arabs aged 18 to 24 years in 15 countries, found that 31 percent of respondents said they knew someone who suffered from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. At the same time 54 percent said believe quality mental healthcare is difficult to access in the Arab region.

"All of us are doing sickcare. When are we going to do healthcare?" - Dr Azad and Alisha Moopen

In their first joint interview, Dr Azad Moopen, a pioneer of the GCC's healthcare sector, and his daughter Alisha, the newly appointed deputy managing director at Aster DM Healthcare, outline their ambitious plans for the future

Founded in 1987, Aster DM Healthcare operates across 25 hospitals, 115 clinics and 231 pharmacies in nine countries, employing around 20,300 staff. Mental health is a sector the company aims to focus on more in the coming years.

“I think this is another clear trend which is emerging… What you don't really have is a lot of data around mental health, because of the taboo around it,” Alisha Moopen, deputy managing director at Aster DM Healthcare, told Arabian Business in a recent interview.

“You're seen a rising incidence of depression, anxiety and those sorts of attention deficit disorders. I think there is an emerging trend, that mental health is becoming more and more prevalent. We are also, as an organization looking at how we can look at that as another [trend] within healthcare,” she added.

Research

In August, the operator announced the setting up of the Aster Innovation and Research Centre. Based in Bangalore, the facility aims to leverage advances in digital health research, such as artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, blockchain, the Internet of Things and behavioural economics.

The centre will do this by partnering with universities, start-ups and industry partners and will be led by Dr Satish Prasad Rath, MD, a post-graduate medical doctor and digital health scientist with experience leading research and innovation labs at Xerox Innovation Group, Wipro Technologies, Intel labs and Philips Research.

One of the areas Aster DM Healthcare may use the centre for is to look at the area of mental health, as technological innovations, such as consultations using modern online telecommunication methods, are becoming increasingly common.

“Technology is going to make a huge impact on this because a lot of times people don't want to go to the facilities, like talking to the psychiatrist or going to the psychologist,” Moopen said.

Click here to read the full interview with Dr Azad and Alisha Moopen.

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