How Technology Can Revolutionize Healthcare in the Middle East

Digital innovations are driving the transformation of healthcare across the region.

Healthcare systems around the world are under increased pressure to deliver high-quality and efficient care to growing populations, but the financial and human resources to deliver that care are becoming increasingly stretched.

At the same time, aging populations and the rise of chronic conditions like heart disease and respiratory ailments are driving up the demand for healthcare.

These global trends are driving a shift to value-based healthcare — a system that focuses on what patients value and allocates resources according to health outcomes.

There’s a “quadruple aim” at work: better health outcomes, improved patient experiences, better staff experiences and lower cost of care.

The Middle East’s 580 million people also face sharp increases in chronic conditions like obesity and cardiovascular diseases because of lifestyle-related challenges like poor eating habits, high stress, inadequate physical activity and lack of sleep.

This is underpinned by many rather worrisome facts and figures that I see almost on a daily basis.

Let me give two examples:

But instead of feeling depressed by this data, it drives me to do whatever I can in my role as Philips’ CEO for the Middle East and Turkey to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation, every single day.

And ongoing developments in digital technology in combination with strong, promising partnerships — with providers, governments and other stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem – allow us to really drive the transformation of healthcare.

Technology is personalizing medicine around the world. [Image: Getty]

 A people-centered approach to artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, has great potential to improve patient outcomes and the efficiency of care delivery.

It helps to improve the operational performance and efficiency of workflows, supports high-quality and integrated clinical decision making, empowers patients and consumers to proactively manage their own health and enables population health management.

However, technology should not be taken as a starting point: The needs of the healthcare provider and the patient should always be at the forefront.

Technology should adapt to their needs, extend their abilities and help them achieve better outcomes.

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AI has great potential to improve patient outcomes and the efficiency of care delivery.

The aim is to optimize healthcare data management, enhance clinical performance and patient experience and deliver added value to local health systems.

The true value of AI can only be unlocked by combining it with knowledge of the clinical and operational context in which it is used — a people-centered approach that we call adaptive intelligence.

Adapting to people’s needs

Adaptive intelligence supports solutions that adapt to people’s needs and extend their capabilities. It can, for example, help clinicians make sense of large amounts of data about individual patient, in a faster and more integrated way.

It can also provide insights that may not be visible to the human eye, which enables diagnoses that are more precise and treatment that is more personalized, with improved patient outcomes. At the same time, it can make hospitals more efficient, standardizing and speeding up the most repetitive and cumbersome work, thereby allowing clinicians to focus on where they can add the most value: patient care.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is already extremely progressive in the adoption of new technologies such as AI. The UAE appointed a Minister of State for AI, and last year, the UAE launched its Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031, bringing AI tools and technology to sectors including healthcare.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is already using AI to assist its procurement and contract management process.

Recently, I also joined many conversations in the region and participated in thought leadership platforms that focus on how technology like AI is changing the way we treat patients by providing personalized treatment solutions. These developments show us how we are making progress in the region.

Seamless solutions that connect people, technology and data

In November 2018, we released our latest Future Health Index Report, based on data and interviews with leaders who are making value-based care happen around the world.

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Technology is changing how we treat patients by providing personalized solutions.

One of the findings was that connected, digital technologies are another important enabler of the transformation toward value-based care.

Telehealth, for example — the provision of healthcare remotely through telecommunications networks — has the potential to bring healthcare within the reach of more people.

It enables care to be delivered quickly across distances and enables more healthcare professionals to deliver the right care to the right patient at the right time.

In the Middle East region, in many cases there is already great healthcare infrastructure in place — although we can make it even more connected and seamless with connected care technologies across the continuum of care, from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and home care.

That’s why we are keen to work with the private sector as well as governments throughout the region to help build an innovative approach based on digital technologies — toward a stronger healthcare infrastructure — in line with national health agendas. I’m already seeing a real shift across the healthcare industry in the region.

Here are two examples that illustrate this shift.

  The tele-cardiology network, established in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), provides a virtual care network across a number of hospitals.

It facilitates access to specialist opinions, sharing of resources, workflow efficiencies by creating one unified workflow and workload balancing across hospitals.

For patients this will translate to their medical information being available where needed when needed at the point of care in any of the connected hospitals, and the peace of mind that their cardiology care is being managed by a network of specialists. 

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Patients’ medical information will be available where and when needed at the point of care.

  In February, together with the Ministry of Health of KSA, we started collaboration on the Heart Safe City project to increase survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest across the kingdom.

The program will leverage a unique end-to-end solution, combining education programs to increase awareness of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the use of publicly available automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and new technologies to strengthen the “chain of survival” from the moment an incident occurs to the patient reaching the hospital.

I’m very passionate about this program, and we are eagerly looking for opportunities to expand it throughout the region.

These examples are just the start. When we are able to reach even more people through mobile and connected technologies, empowered by adaptive intelligence, it will help bring better health — and thus inclusive growth, as health makes an important contribution to economic progress — to entire populations at lower cost.

This is a great step toward delivering on the principles of value-based care — better health outcomes, improved patient and staff experiences and lower cost of care — across the region, which is crucial to building a healthier and more sustainable future.

This article first appeared on World Economic Forum and was republished with permission.

Özlem Fidanci is the Chief Executive Officer of Middle East and Turkey, Royal Philips.

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