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Whilst the standard of care in UAE hospitals has always been world-class, advances in healthcare technology are helping take it to another level. With futuristic innovations, diseases are being picked up faster, delicate surgeries can be performed more precisely and a patient’s medical history can be obtained in an instant. Whether it is getting an appointment booked fast or picking up differences in speech patterns caused by dementia, there is no end to the possibilities that technology is now providing patients and healthcare providers in the region.

“The potential of technology in healthcare is vast. There are endless opportunities for healthcare players to dive deep and explore opportunities in order to enhance their own services, leading to enhanced patient experience,” says Alisha Moopen, Deputy Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare.

Due to the benefits that technology can provide, the healthcare sector in the UAE is currently undergoing a remarkable digital transformation. The pandemic played a role in expediting this current digital landscape, says Anil Kumar, Senior Director of Sales, Uniphore Software Systems.

“Healthcare has been on the cusp of transformation for decades. But the pandemic accelerated adoption of digital health at a pace few could have imagined simply because human lives were being put at risk at an unprecedented speed.”

Following the pandemic, it meant that we were firmly in the throes of the fourth industrial revolution, with every aspect of healthcare being overhauled in this new chapter of digital advancement.

“The healthcare sector is benefiting substantially from the industrial revolution. The impact has been immense across many disciplines. 3D printing development, nanotechnology, miniature robotics, AI and machine learning (ML), and big data analytics are examples, to name a few,” says Fadi Jawdat Hindi, Chief Executive Officer of Octopian Digital.

Thanks to the current technology-driven change, it is ameliorating the industry and the delivery of care and standards.

AI-driven updates

“The transformation has touched every aspect of the patient journey. Integration of patient history and electronic health records allows the aggregation and analytics of humongous amounts of patient data. Data insight and the use of AI and robotic process automation (RPA) allow bots to handle the basic tasks of appointment fixing, laboratory appointments, scheduling doctor visits, and pre-approvals from insurance to the delivery of medicines to homes,” Kumar says.

The arrival of bots and AI has created better value within the healthcare environment and leaves staff free to attend to more urgent matters where they can assist patients.

“The simplification that comes from automation coupled with offloading manual work to machines frees workers to focus on more complex tasks. This capacity recovery allows human capital to solve more complicated problems and simplifies many complex administrative procedures,” Hindi says,

Nevertheless, AI is not the only technology transforming care delivery in the healthcare environment. From the metaverse to telemedicine, technology is becoming more revolutionary as time passes.

“The use of AI is well established in areas such as helping detect abnormalities in x-rays and MRIs, which can easily be overlooked by the human eye, early warning systems in real-time patient monitoring, pattern recognition in wearables and AI in drug discovery,” says Hein van Eck, Chief Strategy Officer, Mediclinic Middle East.

“However, whilst AI in healthcare is one of the fastest growing areas, the more broadly used technologies such as telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and wearables are also continuously evolving into more sophisticated solutions. Augmented, mixed and virtual reality in healthcare, of which the metaverse excitement is but one element, will take time to develop beyond the more focused cases of today, of which surgical training and assistance are only two examples. Bioprinting is another exciting area in which skin, ears, bones and corneas are all organs or tissues in clinical testing for 3D bioprinting.”

With the way in which healthcare and technology complement each other so well, G42, the leading UAE-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing technology company, and Abu Dhabi sovereign investor, Mubadala joined forces recently to create a new, first-of-its-kind integrated healthcare company. This could be something we see more of in the future.

“Technology is driving the quest for efficient, high-quality healthcare in the UAE. At G42 Healthcare, we are embracing advanced technologies to create a transformative shift in the traditional healthcare paradigm,” says Ashish Koshy, CEO, G42 Healthcare.

“We will soon be launching our first personalised consumer healthcare offering that will offer deeper insights into health and well-being. People will be empowered to unlock insights and decode the knowledge within their genes to understand what impacts their fitness, sleep, beauty regimes, dietary habits and much more,” Koshy says.

There is no doubt that partnerships between healthcare and technology providers are revolutionising the patient experience. Appointments can be arranged smoothly and insurance claims can be settled. This means that patients in the UAE can focus on their care, and medical specialists can concentrate on getting them better.

Moopen says, “Aster focuses on both clinical and non-clinical aspects of patient engagement for innovation. While the medical staff is focused on providing the best possible care using the latest technological aids like robot-assisted surgeries, using AI for analysing patient symptoms and offering accurate diagnostics and treatments to the patient, non-clinical innovation also plays a great part in improving patient experiences and increasing service satisfaction. Aster hospitals and digital health leverage robotic automation to assist patients in identifying their insurance plans and applicable tariffs for treatment. This drastically reduces the patient onboarding time and ensures that patients focus on the key aspect of delivery, which is their care.”

Catching any disease from the start is another way to reduce patient onboarding time and due to the affiliation with AI, even illnesses such as dementia might be spotted earlier.

“An exciting area of progress is the use of machine learning and natural language processing in the treatment of mental health conditions. For example, certain AI solutions have been developed to detect words and intonations of speech that might indicate a mood disorder. Certain solutions even go as far as diagnosing dementia early by picking up the difference in speech features compared to a healthy person,” van Eck of Mediclinic says.

It seems the sky is the limit for the future of healthcare in the UAE and developments are constantly changing. With the ambitious progress in technology, it is difficult to predict what may come next, however, what we do know is that the patient’s well-being will be at its core. ■