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Digital Health: The Evolution & Opportunity of Healthcare Delivery

A growing number of patients with long-term health conditions, compounded by an increasingly ageing population, is driving the global healthcare industry to focus on preventative care, whilst also seeking innovative solutions to address the need for on-going care. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has demonstrated this focus on disease prevention through the renaming and restructuring of the Ministry of Health. The renamed Ministry of Health & Prevention will emphasize community awareness programs to help alleviate pressure on the healthcare sector.

This year more leaders in the public and private sector will present bold thinking and innovation in healthcare; and the adoption of electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) technology is integral to this global healthcare revolution. Recognizing the significance of digital health, the UAE government has made great strides to transform the healthcare infrastructure and implement policies to address the most pressing healthcare needs. A cornerstone of UAE’s development strategy is implementing innovative solutions to build a robust healthcare system, in an effort to improve public health and reduce the need for residents in the UAE to travel abroad for care.

Large-scale investments have over the past decade been made in healthcare infrastructure and the adoption of the latest technologies to help meet demand, and to deliver healthcare in novel, dynamic ways. Mubadala’s healthcare network – through facilities such as Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre – is driving this regional digital health revolution through increasing access to care and empowering UAE patients to manage their health and well-being under the guidance of medical professionals, through the use of technology.

The growth of mHealth

Much like wellness and preventative care, digital health and mHealth will play an integral role in the delivery of care, and become synonymous with overall healthcare practice. Demonstrating the impact and popularity of innovative mHealth solutions worldwide, a study by GlobalData reported that between 2011 and 2018, the global telehealth and telemedicine market was set to grow by 14%. Furthermore, revenue for telehealth services and devices will increase 10-fold and by the same year. Seven million patients will be adopting telemedicine services – a 20-fold increase from the current number of users – which reflects consumers receptivity to such innovations.

The UAE is well placed to benefit from and lead the mHealth revolution as the Emirates has one of the highest mobile internet usage rates globally with more than 75% of mobile consumers carrying smartphones.

Increasing Access to Care

Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre – a joint venture between Mubadala and Switzerland’s leading telemedicine provider, Medgate – has already demonstrated technology’s impact on connectivity. Since its launch in 2014, the Centre’s medical team has diagnosed close to 2,000 different medical conditions over the phone, and treated tens of thousands of patients calling from across the Emirates. The Centre was formed, particularly with rural patients in mind, to provide convenient access to quality non-emergency healthcare. The Centre leverages technology to deliver virtual medical services, and to empower patients to take an active role in their own healthcare.

A key component to the digital health revolution is the ability to streamline systems and care through the use of Electronic Medical Records (EMR). We’re seeing more fully digital facilities in the region – including both Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – where EMRs help to ensure safety, quality and efficiency between physicians, departments and even healthcare institutions. Further, EMRs support in managing patient demand and data collection, and help us to identify health related trends among patient groups. Supporting this industry trend, Health Authority – Abu Dhabi has set health data standards to ensure healthcare facilities and insurance providers report data coherently, demonstrating a shift in the healthcare delivery paradigm towards flexible, patient-led care.

The Future of the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare sector has always been a driver of technological change. As innovation continues, smarter software enables more complex and useful interactions with both clinicians and patients; and the collection and analysis of health data produces increased insights to help us identify regional health trends. In Abu Dhabi we’ve seen how innovative technology can increase efficiency and productivity, which leads to enhanced patient satisfaction levels, and supports cost and time savings. Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, Mubadala and our partners remain committed to investing in new partnerships, implementing digital technology, and introducing new care systems, to meet the growing health needs and deliver world-class care throughout the Emirates. I believe this presents significant potential for growth and presents an exciting road ahead for healthcare in the UAE.

Suhail Al Ansari

Chairman, Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre and Executive Director of Mubadala Healthcare

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