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The evolution of healthcare in 2019

The evolution of healthcare in 2019

From technology to mental health, Christian Schuhmacher examines how the UAE’s healthcare landscape might develop in the coming months

The UAE healthcare market, which was valued at $15.3bn in 2018, is expected to reach $20.03bn (Dhs73.52bn) in worth by 2020, according to the US-UAE Business Council January 2018 report.

And as we enter 2019, we can certainly see that the UAE’s healthcare landscape is continuing to evolve, with a wave of initiatives and technological advancements helping to merge gaps.

Public and private sector

With tackling chronic and lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity at the core of the UAE National Agenda for 2021, we anticipate more initiatives coming from the public sector in 2019.

As an example, the Ministry of Health and Prevention plans to roll out weight care centres across the Emirates to help UAE nationals achieve a healthy BMI, while the nationwide Little Chef programme aims to instill good nutrition habits in Emirati children.

These initiatives will also be complemented by efforts from the private sector, including insurance and healthcare providers, to help raise awareness about the long-term implications of lifestyle diseases and help people adopt a healthier lifestyle.

For example, King’s College Hospital London has partnered with Dwight school and Brighton College to bring primary care closer to the community. Each school has its own King’s medical centre, where a dedicated full time King’s nurse and part time family medicine consultant offer primary care as a first point of call for pupils, as well as holding regular awareness workshops and screenings to promote healthy living.

Collaborations between the private and public sector have become increasingly important, and as such public-private partnerships (PPP) are expected to increase within the healthcare sector in 2019.

These partnerships, which range from the development or upgrade of medical facilities and the supply of medical technologies, to consultancy services in clinical management and best practice guidelines, will allow the public sector to enhance its services, improve the management of its resources, and cut costs.

Mental health

Over the past year, we have seen mental health gain significant attention. The Dubai Health Forum recently revealed that nearly a third of Dubai’s population – an estimated 1.3 million people – needs mental health care, while a 2018 Global Happiness Report stated that on average mental health disorders decrease national income by 5 per cent.

As a result, the DHA launched the first comprehensive mental health strategy for Dubai to address the shortfall of services and resources. With new data becoming available and showing the impact of mental health on socio-economic and human development factors, we expect 2019 to offer a more contextualised mental health landscape in the UAE, in addition to a stronger focus on mental health support.

In the lead up to 2021, we hope to see a number of campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the various disorders, while working to eliminating the stigma associated.

Cost containment

As medical inflation continues to rise, cost containment is increasingly becoming the focus of the industry.

Providers and insurers are implementing new measures to maximise resources, reduce expenditure and avoid wastage. To aid this, King’s College Hospital London applies the NICE treatment protocols, which are scientific healthcare guidelines that govern everything within the clinical setting, from the way a hospital is run to the way a doctor conducts a consultation and treatment. Abiding to these guidelines helps ensure the most efficient use of medical services and resources.

Tech advances

What is also certain about healthcare in 2019 and beyond is the ever-growing presence of technology as an enabler of positive progress and improvements in clinical efficiency, as well as making everyday life for patients much more convenient.

We are already seeing technology be taken to new heights in the UAE, one example being the establishment of robotic pharmacies by the DHA, which dispense medication through a unified barcoding system. Millions of items are barcoded and integrated within the formulary smart app, reducing waiting time to less than three minutes, granting pharmacists more time to explain medication instructions to patients. It also prevents dispensing errors.

Technologies are also increasingly playing a role in doctors’ decision-making processes. For example, King’s recently-opened 100-bed hospital in Dubai Hills features the first and only EOS imaging system in the UAE. This system is an extremely advanced orthopaedic imaging technology that gives doctors a clear 3D view of the patient’s musculoskeletal system and helps them make life-changing decisions regarding the patient’s treatment. The vast range of data that this groundbreaking technology can provide means that there is potential in the future to 3D print orthopaedic implants tailored to each patient.

Robotic surgery is also becoming more prevalent in hospitals. The rise of robotics and connected devices has allowed doctors to treat diseases more effectively and monitor people’s health both in and out of the hospital. The ability to monitor the patient’s health 24 hours a day has allowed patients to be at ease and not have to worry about monitoring themselves. It is evident that the increasing integration of these technologies will make the patient experience undoubtedly more convenient.

Overall, the UAE healthcare industry will continue to grow, embrace and respond to arising trends that ensue from the growing needs of the market.

Christian Schuhmacher is CEO of King’s College Hospital London in the UAE 

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