By Gavin Gibbon
Study finds 60% of people plan to continue using telehealth technology in a post Covid-19 world
The onset of the global coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift towards telehealth and telemedicine as various lockdowns and curfews saw patients swapping the doctor’s waiting room for the computer screen.
According to a global study from Frost & Sullivan, telehealth consultation grew by 2,000 percent between March and April this year, while 90 percent of physicians started using telehealth during Covid, up from 15 percent prior to the start of the pandemic. And 60 percent plan to continue using it post-Covid.
Mohamed Berrada, partner and head of healthcare practice for, for Kearney Middle East, told Arabian Business: “Healthcare was already evolving and was its own path to digital transformation; however, the pandemic accelerated this and proved that the industry is capable of adaptability, agility and innovation. Widespread integration of technology has been integral to containment and treatment processes such as contact tracing and testing.”
Earlier this year nationals and residents of the UAE were able to access medical consultation via phones through the new Prime Telehealth platform licensed by the Dubai Health Authority.
While during the height of the spread, Dubai-based Mulk Holdings launched the Middle East’s first e-hospital with access to over 2,000 doctors across the world.
“Going forward, we expect these virtual healthcare platforms like video conferencing and digital monitoring to be adopted worldwide,” said Berrada.
Frost & Sullivan’s global report also highlighted that 80 percent of patients are interested in, or prefer, virtual visits. It said a 15-20-minute virtual visit saves two-to-three hours of a patient’s time and five-to-six hours-a-day for a physician.
Ultimately, the net cost savings per telemedicine visit range from $19 to $121.
Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki, director of health investment and partnership at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said: “Telehealth has been embraced during this crisis situation and it is a great tool to build the rapport between patients and healthcare professionals in various fields to ensure the right quality of services towards the patients.”
Smartphone penetration rate is 85 percent in the UAE, while it is anticipated that lifestyle disorders, aging population and rising demand for personalised patient care and self-health management tools will continue to drive the market.
While there may previously have been a reluctance to adopt telehealth, from both a patient and healthcare provider’s point of view, coronavirus has clearly witnessed a shift in attitudes.
Dr. Gireesh Kumar, senior manager for healthcare and education at Knight Frank Middle East, said: “The adoption of telehealth as a mainstream service, has been beneficial for healthcare providers during the lockdown as they were able to provide services to their patients with minimal disruption.
“This has also led to patients overcoming their age old reluctances associated with telehealth services. In addition to this, given the wider acceptance of telehealth by insurance providers, this service line is expected to experience greater demand going forward.”
And the implementation of several other technologies are expected to increase in the next few years.
“Adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in augmenting healthcare workflows and decision making can help with faster diagnosis and risk prediction of diseases. Wearable biometric monitoring devices will enable patients and healthcare providers to remotely monitor their medical status, allowing for safe medical care at remote locations,” said Berrada.
“There will also be an exponential growth in the application of technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Machine Learning (ML), Big Data, blockchain, robotics, and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).”
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