• 86% of UAE respondents believe that the use of digital technologies and data solutions has led to increased staff productivity
  • 40% of UAE respondents highlighted ethics and privacy issues as one of the most significant barriers to the implementation of digital technology

Dubai: A majority of health and service (HHS) organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plan to invest further in digital technology and data solutions after seeing their value and increasing importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new EY report ‘Harnessing the power of data to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens: can reality catch up with ambition?’.

EY, in collaboration with the Imperial College’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI), investigated the challenges that HHS organizations face in implementing digital and data solutions. In addition, EY worked with YouGov to conduct a multi-country survey to test the views of HHS providers across six countries, including Australia, India, Italy, UAE, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA).

UAE leading the way in uptake of digital technologies and data solutions during the pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, HHS organizations lagged behind other sectors with regards to the adoption of digital technologies and data solutions. However, since the onset of COVID-19, a majority of respondents in all countries reported that their use of digital technologies and data solutions has increased. Overwhelmingly, the percentage of respondents using specific digital technologies and data solutions was higher in the UAE and India, when compared to the other countries.

The use of phone and video consultations was widespread across all countries, but there was significant variation in the use of other data solutions and digital technologies. This appears to be as a result of the high number of organizations in these countries that were using these solutions prior to the pandemic.

In particular, the UAE was able to scale up these technologies due to its sound technological infrastructure and investments in cutting edge technology such as artificial intelligence in recent times. Looking to the future, 53% of respondents from the UAE indicate that they plan to further invest in these solutions over the next three years.

86% of UAE respondents believe that the use of digital technologies and data solutions has led to increased staff productivity

Around the world, respondents noted that the use of digital technologies and data solutions led to increased staff productivity, with 86% of respondents in the UAE saying the same, compared to 53% in the UK. In addition, a majority of respondents from five of the six countries surveyed, apart from the UK, reported that these solutions were effective in improving the quality of experience, access to care, and outcomes for patients/service users.

Encouragingly, 66% of global respondents agreed that their staff quickly adapted to using new tools. Of those surveyed, 61% agreed that their organization is using these solutions more effectively than before the pandemic began, and 58% reported that digital solutions have made operating models more efficient. 

40% of UAE respondents highlighted ethics and privacy issues as one of the most significant barriers to the implementation of digital technology

The report found that 40% of respondents in the UAE listed ethics and privacy concerns as one of the most significant barriers to the implementation of digital technology and data solutions prior to COVID-19. This was significantly higher than other countries, where only 11% of UK and 20% of USA respondents, respectively, cited it as a main concern. The underlying reasons behind this discrepancy are not immediately clear, though are likely a combination of cultural factors, citizen attitudes, and information governance policies and infrastructure, noted the report.

Mohammad Sear, MENA Digital Government and Public Sector Consulting, EY, says:

“In many ways, HHS organizations in the UAE have been better placed than their peers in countries around the world to adjust their digital services to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAE is among the countries with the highest use of digital technologies and data solutions. Clearly, this is a trend that will continue as respondents have seen the value of these technologies and most plan to invest further in them in the days ahead. It may also be the case that the UAE’s relatively modern urban infrastructure and systems allowed it to be more agile than other older and more established healthcare systems.”

To maintain this momentum in the future, the key findings from the EY report highlighted the need for ensuring funding and reimbursement for services delivered virtually or through digital solutions during period of crisis such as the pandemic, maintaining interoperability of digital systems, and making sure that regulations and data security protocols are standardized and in place to govern the use of digital tools and technology.

The report also noted that service providers must also see the benefits of continuing to use digital technologies and analytical solutions in the aftermath of the pandemic. Additionally, HHS providers must consider the preferences and demands of their users going forward in the aftermath of the pandemic, given the fact that many users’ newfound comfort with these digital systems will likely mean that they will increasingly demand the availability of these solutions in the future.

Mohammad added:

“Over the next few months, the actions of regulators, payers, service providers, vendors and service users will become increasingly important, and will pave the way for increased usage of digital technologies and analytical tools within HHS organizations around the world. Doing so successfully, however, will require all stakeholders in the sector to come together, innovate and find ways to ensure that these promising technologies are being used to their maximum potential and delivering improved – and in many cases, vital – services to their citizens.”


Sarah Afifi                                                                                Ewan Abbasi
MENA Public Relations                                                          MENA Public Relations
+971 4 332 4000                                                                     +971 4 332 4000
sarah.afifi@ae.ey.com                                                             ewan.abbasi@ae.ey.com  

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