Interview: Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein
What kind of an impact has recent implementation of smart technologies had on health care?
PRINCESS HAYA BINT AL HUSSEIN: Smart technologies, such as Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART), are designed to function with minimal human intervention. As health care systems across the world face unprecedented pressures due to increasing costs and ageing populations with chronic diseases, the notion that we can replace many of the labour-intensive and expensive health care processes with smart technologies is very attractive.
The real question is how can we convert all these advances in technology into tangible benefits for patients. This could prove to be a challenge because medical education is focused on curing disease using old proven technologies, leaving doctors relatively unprepared to embrace modern ones. In addition, many of the new technologies have been implemented rapidly without proper risk-benefit analysis. However, there is no doubt that applied in the correct manner, new technologies can potentially help doctors with routine tasks so that they can spend more time with the patients. For example, wearable gadgets, sensors and monitoring devices are helping those with Alzheimer’s disease to continue living at home for much longer. Sensors placed on the patient and in the home can predict behaviour, send reminders to the patient, as well as alert carers of any risks, such as falling over or a sudden onset of an illness.
Being able to collect data from patients at differing stages of chronic disease, from a variety of locations and conditions, will allow analytics to identify patterns of behaviour that may detect significant changes in a disease and prevent deterioration with pre-emptive treatment. The prospect of detecting a change in a chronic condition and preventing deterioration is likely to improve lives with a concomitant reduction in hospitalisation and costs. It is essential that clinicians, health care providers, industry leaders, medical equipment companies, regulators and insurance providers work together to ensure that this technological revolution in medicine does not lose its human touch.
How is the government encouraging the development and adoption of such technologies?
PRINCESS HAYA: To ensure successful adoption of new technologies, we need to equip the physician, the patient and the system with the right tools and knowledge. The way Dubai has evolved over the past decade is a testament to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s leadership and forward thinking when it comes to innovation and vision. A small example of his desire to make Dubai the best hub for innovative thinking is the UAE Innovation Week. This annual event running under the theme “Innovation, an everyday event” showcases advances in technological developments across all sectors including health care.
By providing the infrastructure, the financial support and the ability to exchange ideas with like-minded professionals, the UAE has gathered the necessary ingredients for such technologies to develop and flourish. Improving medical training to ensure future generations of UAE doctors are proficient in the use of technology, social media and digital platforms is one of the objectives of the Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences. Dubai makes it easy for health care professionals to join forces with the regulators to ensure that new technological advances are introduced in a measured and sustainable way, with clear benefits to patients.
However, we will not allow smart technologies to become disruptive or destructive. We want new technologies to stimulate us into thinking differently instead of stopping us to think at all. We want to encourage not just our patients, but all our citizens to take advantage of these technologies that are easily available to them, to regain control of their own well-being so that they can live a full and healthy life.
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