UAE - Ahmad AlDashti, Assistant Undersecretary of Support Services, Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE, presented the opening keynote during the Khaleej Times Middle East Digital Health Forum in Dubai on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Photo by Neeraj Murali

In a world where new technologies are constantly disrupting industries, healthcare providers have to ensure that they are adopting a sustainable approach that properly leverages the potential of these technologies, experts said at the second edition of the Middle East Digital Health Forum.

Presented by Khaleej Times, under the endorsement of the Ministry of Health & Prevention, the event took place on Thursday in Dubai, with Hewlett Packard Enterprise as the Gold Sponsor and KeyReply as the Networking Sponsor.

In his opening keynote, Ahmad AlDashti, assistant undersecretary of Support Services, Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE, said that the event will support the UAE’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality of healthcare offered, as well as providing opportunities to discuss how service providers can leverage the latest smart digital technologies to boost the country’s competitiveness in the healthcare sector.

“We are very proud of the UAE’s transformation as a global gateway to the future, which would not have been possible without the country’s proactive vision which fuels the flames of innovation and excellence,” he said. “Over the years, the ministry has invested heavily in the digital health sector in order to provide smart and innovative solutions, and maximising the sophisticated digital infrastructure that we already have. We simply want to create a world class healthcare system that will place the UAE among the most advanced countries in the world.”

Morad Qutqut, chief customer innovation Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), noted that digital innovation leaders are always thinking about new ideas and how they can adopt them to serve their clients better. A key challenge, he noted, revolves around the sharing of medical data. “The more data we have, the better visibility we will have, and this leads us to making better predictions.”

He also highlighted the success of HPE’s Digital Life Garage – which partners with local governments, research leaders, and technology companies – to build a more collaborative global technology community. “Using high performance computing and advanced technologies, we have supported different research efforts that are happening at a global level.”

Dr Mohaymen Abdelghany, CEO at Danat Al Emarat Hospital, shared how “societal satisfaction” is now expected from healthcare providers. This is partly because of an increasing number of technology companies that are coming into the healthcare sphere. “Google, Amazon, and Apple are all powerful new entrants in the healthcare sector, and they come with a host of new ideas on wearables and digital health services.”

He added that transformation is a journey that never stops. “Organisations need to take a 'step-assess-step-assess' approach when it comes to digital transformation.”

Highlighting a successful case study that was implemented in Dubai, Dr. Younis Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Healthcare Corporation, Dubai Health Authority, pointed to the Dubai Paperless Strategy and how it had been instrumental in digitising patient files. “Creating a paperless ecosystem and using health data to develop our public health policies is in line with the emirates' role to provide the best quality of patient-centric care.”

Dr. Haidar Saeed Al Yousuf, MD of Al-Futtaim Health, believes that the early adoption of technology can give providers an edge. However, he stressed that technology for the sake of technology is a very common mistake that many make. “Today, we are only scratching the surface of what is possible with technology. We need to embrace a lot more technology to ensure that we maintain the right level of sustainable patient care.”

Healthcare must take a digital-first approach

Having a strong foundation towards being digital-first is fast becoming table stakes, said Peiru Teo, CEO of KeyReply.

“Healthcare organisations that do this will be able to be a lot more nimble to implement changes and experience a faster return on investment on new programmes,” she told Khaleej Times. “At the same time, they can drive revenue by being the top of mind for patients, and yet be able to lower costs over time with increased efficiencies.”

Consumers, Teo noted, are the end beneficiaries, by enjoying higher levels of care and service, and potentially more effectively managing costs due to streamlining of services and efficiency gains from the providers.

She also pointed out that many inefficiencies that exist in today’s world are there for a reason. “Systems that do not talk to each other may cause people to do unnecessary manual tasks such as repetitive manual checking and data entry. These increase waiting time and error rates. It could also be due to existing processes and training of the manpower.”

“Organisations can best capitalise on the opportunities to utilise new and future-proof types of technologies to implement innovations that involve process redesign and to seamlessly link systems together so that data can flow in a closed loop in the ecosystem for maximum interoperability. This means much lower costs in integration and longitudinal data that can be collected over time, will be much more meaningful and comprehensive,” she explained.

Jacques Najjar, general manager at MDS Computers - part of Midis Group – said that taking a digital-first approach when it comes to healthcare today saves time, allows for the collection of accurate and historic data about patients that will prevent diseases, and prolong the life of human beings.

“It presents numerous opportunities for improving and transforming healthcare which includes: reducing human errors, improving clinical outcomes, facilitating care coordination, improving practice efficiencies, and tracking data over time. Patients will be empowered to make informed decisions about their health,” Najjar said.

Looking ahead, he said that the impact of digital transformation will be felt across all aspects of health care, helping enable easier access to care, improving quality, and decreasing the cost of care. “Patients can connect quickly and conveniently with their preferred provider.”

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