As Dubai aims to become a leader in health care delivery, while simultaneously being the region’s focal point for ICT, sector innovation is flourishing. Capitalising on global growth in health care technology application, government bodies and private sector tech companies are collaborating to introduce more efficient solutions throughout the health care value chain.
Dubai is home to a thriving ecosystem of health innovation, with more than 60 health tech start-ups located in the emirate as of June 2019. These include AlemHealth, a diagnostic telemedicine services provider that assists care provision in developing countries by connecting local providers to a global network of data and expertise; Altibbi, a digital health platform than hosts more than 1.5m pages of medical content and offers a 24/7 telemedicine service; Dhonor Healthcare, a Dubai-based start-up that focuses on blockchain services for the sector; and Zest, an online app to help users pursue wellness and mindfulness.
The presence of these health care start-ups are the result of Dubai’s long-term pursuit to create an innovation ecosystem through initiatives such as the Dubai Internet City free zone, and the establishment of innovation-focused government bodies like the UAE’s Ministry of State for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Dubai Future Foundation (see ICT & Innovation chapter).
Fostering innovation is one of six objectives outlined by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in the Dubai Health Strategy 2016-21. The DHA has been promoting digitalisation in the health care system since at least 2013, when it launched the Smart Healthcare Model to provide guidelines for helping providers go paperless and increase automation. More recently, in March 2019 the DHA launched a new appointment app and an update to its Shereyan licensing system that uses AI to register health care professionals and verify their skills in five minutes.
The results of efforts to promote digitalisation can be seen among facilities like Dr Sulaiman Habib Hospital in Dubai Healthcare City. In addition to collecting and storing biometric data of patients, the hospital’s paramedics use Google Glass to send information and communicate with emergency room doctors in a way that allows them to remain hands free.
At the federal level, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHP) launched a number of smart initiatives in January 2019, including Actiste, a service that allows diabetes patients to remotely manage symptoms and treatment via an app. The app simultaneously collects reliable data for contribution to the National Unified Medical Record system, which allows hospitals to share medical records to save time and costs, and avoid errors. Actiste is the result of collaboration between the MoHP, Swedish digital health company Brighter and its Dubai-based holding Alba Arabian.
UAE RADR and PaCE are two other notable new programmes. UAE RADR is an app produced in collaboration with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the World Health Organisation. It is designed to enhance pharmacovigilance by allowing for the collation of data from reports on drug side effects. PaCE, meanwhile, is a system for both adult and newborn intensive care units that uses cameras and AI to send audio and visual alarms in case of emergency.
As part of UAE Vision 2021, the federal government has set aside $500m to fund innovation works in primary sectors, including health care. Although the process of digital transformation is initially labour intensive for many hospitals, in the long run the combination of digitalised patient records and remote diagnostic technology will lead to gains in efficiency and profitability. Dubai’s prospects as an innovator in health tech will be improved by its early adoption of 5G technology, as one local operator became the first in the region to launch 5G for commercial purposes in May 2018. 5G will be crucial to the wider application of telemedicine and remote diagnostics in the near future, as more providers and companies apply these tools.