From augmented reality (AR) platforms that allow doctors to ‘teleport’ between clinics, to concierge packages providing bespoke medical services, technology is taking UAE healthcare to the cutting edge.
Most encouragingly, many of the innovations we’re now seeing are focused on tackling the biggest challenges our health sector is facing: increased competition and soaring patient expectations.
But how much difference can they really make?
Let’s take a look at three of the most promising healthcare innovations and how they are already transforming the sector.
1. AR platforms
AR solutions offer an efficient and cost-effective way of allowing access to the world’s top healthcare professionals, regardless of geographical location. No special hardware is needed, and the system uses cloud-based technology, which can be accessed on any device with low bandwidth.
This system provides patients with prompt, high-quality care without the need to travel or endure lengthy waits. It also cuts travel costs and time for specialists.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has partnered up with Proximie, an AR platform that can virtually transport the very best healthcare professionals across the world at the touch of a button.
By combining live video-streaming with state-of-the-art AR software, UAE doctors who are carrying out operations are able to interact directly with top specialists on the other side of the world. This enables the very best surgeons around the globe to give ‘hands-on’ virtual assistance in real time, challenging the maxim that you can’t be in two places at once.
2. Concierge medicine
Good-quality customer service is key for client retention, and concierge medicine provides a way for clinics to give their patients the ultimate bespoke healthcare experience.
As patient expectations continue to grow alongside income in the UAE, this approach is set to become more and more relevant. Hailing from the US, concierge medicine offers a range of health services to UAE patients who want – and can afford – a higher level of care.
Services may include having your own ‘on call’ doctor, plus access to telemedicine and the latest cutting-edge diagnostic and wellness services not usually covered by standard insurance packages.
And this is just the beginning. As technology advances, this personalised approach to healthcare could further evolve to provide a truly user-centric, on-demand service.
TruDoc 24×7 is one example of a telemedicine company in the UAE. Subscribers can speak directly to a doctor at any time of day or night and from anywhere in the world, either by video, phone or live chat.
It also offers a range of services, including specialist referrals, prescriptions, medicine deliveries and telemonitoring. Wellness services on offer include any-time access to wellness experts, customised nutrition and exercise plans, and weight management, sleep disorder and pregnancy programmes.
3. Smart health
Data captured through smart health devices could provide the information clinics need to proactively care for patients.
It’s common knowledge that the wearable tech market is exploding. Connected wearable devices are expected to hit over 1.1 billion by 2022 – and as the market continues to grow, it’s moving far beyond basic activity trackers.
Another DHA partner, Scanbo, is a Canadian biotechnology company that combines deep learning with activity monitoring, allowing six key vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, heartbeat pattern, blood sugar and oxygen) to be captured within just two minutes.
It then stores the data on a mobile app and also maintains a history. This information can then be relayed to interested parties, such as the patient, doctors or nurses, as needed.
Artificial intelligence-based technologies are poised to transform healthcare in the UAE, thanks to their ability to assist our health system in the journey to practising preventive, rather than solely curative, medicine.
At present, it’s the ‘worried well’ who tend to invest in smart health devices. But imagine how transformative it would be if hospitals and clinics could continuously capture data from those who place the biggest demand on health services – the unwell.
By encouraging patients to embrace such platforms, doctors can better monitor their health from afar and intervene more quickly. Widespread use of these devices would also provide invaluable data for research, aiding the development of truly effective health interventions.
A year of change
AR platforms, concierge medicine and smart health tech are, of course, just three of many upcoming technological innovations that stand to transform the face of healthcare in the UAE.
As the fields of robotics, 3D printing and drones also continue to develop, they too bring new and exciting ways of personalising and improving our health system.
The DHA’s work with global private companies as part of the Dubai Future Foundation’s ‘Dubai Future Accelerators’ programme demonstrates just how committed the UAE is to harnessing the power of technology in making healthcare more effective and accessible.
But the change needed to really revolutionise healthcare in this region can’t begin and end with governmental initiatives. Clinics and hospitals will need to embrace and work with these new cutting-edge approaches if the UAE’s healthcare system is to truly transform.
Mark Adams is the chairman of The Healthcare Network