Predictions 2017: Dr Azad Moopen, Aster DM Healthcare chairman and MD

There’s still a lot of untapped potential for technology in the healthcare sector

The Middle East’s healthcare sector continued its impressive upward trajectory during 2016. This is despite a gloomy backdrop of macro-economic storms, fuelled by suppressed oil prices and geopolitical uncertainty, both regionally and globally.

In fact, the healthcare industry as a whole has continued to deliver new growth opportunities, driven by fresh medical advancements, demand for quality, accessible and affordable healthcare services, and increasing life expectancy.

Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed significant growth, which came as a response to market needs. In the GCC alone, we are working on delivering five new hospital projects, including four in the UAE and one in Qatar. Meanwhile, in India, we formally launched a Quaternary Healthcare facility in Hebbal, Bengaluru, bringing the total number of healthcare facilities on the subcontinent to 15 establishments.

In addition, we acquired a 60 per cent stake in Harley Street Medical Centre (HSMC) in Abu Dhabi. Currently operating as a day-care surgery facility, the centre is staffed by European-trained medical practitioners specialising in urology, plastic surgery, gynaecology, gastroenterology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, internal medicine and general surgery.

Our growth story has been a spectacular one, having started with a single clinic in Bur Dubai three decades ago. Today, we operate 296 establishments spread across nine countries in the Middle East, India and Philippines.

For us, rapid medical advancements, coupled with changing demographics and an aging population, make fertile grounds for more growth. And this growth will be guided by an unrelenting vision to provide people with better access to quality, affordable healthcare. We strongly believe that profit should be a by-product and not the aim in healthcare. As such, we have launched several CSR initiatives aimed at giving back to the society.

With all these new developments, resourcing remains a pressing issue. The twin dangers of inadequate homegrown talent and a decline in international talent are putting pressure on industry players.

We call upon the industry and regional governments to support the development of teaching institutions as a proactive, capacity-building measure, to further strengthen the sector.

To this end, we ventured into education with the opening of DM WIMS Medical College and Hospital, in Wayanad, India, to train future healthcare professionals under the Dr Moopen Education and Research Foundation (DMERF). We currently employ in excess of 18,750 people across the Middle East, India and Philippines including 2,035 doctors and 6,129 nurses, who touch the lives of 50,000 patients per day.

Another healthcare-related area of growth for Aster DM Healthcare is technology. With the introduction of forward-thinking services such as “Aster Chronic Care”, which offers a distance monitoring system, and online pharmacy (asteronline.com) leading the fusion of healthcare and technology, making quality care accessible and convenient for all.

In general, there’s still a lot of untapped potential for technology in the healthcare sector. Investing in advancements such as wearables will greatly improve the delivery of healthcare services, and reduce costs. For example, we’ll be able to monitor a patient’s blood sugar levels and make the necessary adjustments to their treatment, all remotely. Exploring the use of such technologies opens the doors to the next-generation of care.