Four UAE healthcare trends that will affect you in 2019

New technologies in the healthcare industry could help companies health insurance premiums under control



‘A future of healthcare that is increasingly preventative, personalised and precise’.

That was the picture that emerged when the Economist Intelligence Unit carried out a survey in Asia, the Middle East and Africa with a view to determining the future of healthcare.

So what does this mean for you?

Can we expect this and other key trends to have a dramatic impact here in the UAE? And what will this mean for your company and your employees?

1. Focus on disease prevention and behavioural health

In recent years, the Gulf region has seen a worrying rise in the incidence of lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease. They now account for 65 per cent of all deaths in the UAE. That makes this part of the world ready for innovation when it comes to preventative and behavioural health.

Preventative health can encompass everything from health screening to wellness programmes encouraging people to eat more healthily, stop smoking, and be more active. Behavioural health tends to focus on areas such as self-management of ongoing conditions, including medication adherence.

As medical providers increasingly keep detailed digital records of each patient’s care, we can expect to see more targeted interventions to help individuals manage their health.

What could this mean for your company?

It’s likely that some of your staff are being affected by health issues brought on by (or exacerbated by) poor lifestyle choices. Getting support to help them manage their health proactively will enable them to remain at work and maximise their focus and productivity.

This support along with behavioural health advice could help to reduce your company’s overall usage of emergency and in-patient services, helping to keep your health insurance premiums under control.

2. Increasing personalisation

Technology has the power to make medical services much more personalised, and we could well see this happening more over the next year.

For example a new tool called Healthigo, launched recently here in Dubai, is allowing people to book appointments, manage and search their family health records, receive personalised health news, and health-related alerts and reminders and much more.

The growing adoption of wearable technology in the Gulf region also holds great potential for personalising health maintenance and ongoing care. It can help individuals manage their own care as well as enabling health professionals to monitor patients remotely.

What could this mean for your company?

This could help your employees manage their health more effectively and feel empowered to look after their own wellbeing. Both excellent for their overall health as well as your medical insurance premiums.

3. Big data and artificial intelligence

The adoption of electronic health records has been faster in the Middle East than in many areas of the world, which makes it fertile ground for gathering big data and using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse and apply it. That could potentially see this region leading the way in this important healthcare trend.

The concept, which involves taking large sets of data and using computer power to process it and pick up trends, patterns and anomalies, is a natural fit with healthcare. It could prove extremely powerful, and could even revolutionise the sector.

Analysts predict that the current emphasis on big data in healthcare will continue, with the global market expecting to be worth $34bn by 2022.

What could this mean for your company?

Leveraging AI and big data could help healthcare providers improve the services they offer in various ways, for example:

Avoiding medication errors: Machine learning based on big data could help systems pick up when a medication is prescribed or given to a patient in error by flagging up anything that doesn’t fit with typical patterns. Potentially life-saving, this technology already exists but has been slow to reach the market. In 2019, the implications are huge.

Identifying people in need of support: Big data analytics can be used to pick up any behaviour that is out of the ordinary. For example, it could automatically flag up people who make excessive use of medical services. They can then benefit from pre-emptive support to manage their health better.

Optimising hospital staffing: Analysing big data could help hospitals work out when additional staff are needed, reducing waiting times, avoiding lost working hours for your employees, as well as cutting costs.

For your company, the end result should be higher quality, more efficient care for your staff – and lower health insurance premiums in the future.

4. Internet of things

Today we are all accustomed to using internet-connected devices, thanks to the widespread adoption of smartphones. However all kinds of devices can be connected to the web, and to each other, creating a powerful network of information and interactivity.

This has massive potential in the area of healthcare and we can expect to see developments throughout 2019. As with big data, analysts predict this trend in healthcare to continue growing rapidly, reaching a value of $158bn by 2022.

Again, the prevalence of electronic health records in the UAE could help to put this part of the world ahead of the game.

What could this mean for your company?

Along with wearable devices, smartphones could play an increasingly valuable role in helping your employees manage their health. There are already health-related apps available and we’re likely to see more innovations in this area over the coming year. This could benefit your employees in a whole multitude of ways, helping them take control of their wellbeing.

This could all tie into the previous trend, with user data being collated to help drive future improvements and efficiencies in healthcare provision.

Telemedicine is likely to continue surging ahead in the UAE. This would enable your staff to consult doctors remotely from the office so they can spend more time working rather than travelling and sitting in a waiting room. Taking it a step further, medics could assess data collected through wearable technology and mobile apps to assist with diagnosis and monitoring.

2019 and beyond

Over the next year, we’re likely to see the four trends we’ve highlighted here working together to help make health services more efficient and simultaneously more patient-centred.

Overall, your people will be able to take advantage of better and more proactive healthcare while your company could benefit from more productive staff and less health insurance usage.

All of it leading to lower premiums in the future.

Alniz Popat is the CEO of Lifecare International