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UAE’s health care sector gets a clean bill of health

As I was writing this, world leaders were gathering in Davos at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting with the aim to rededicate themselves to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world. I am honoured that I could actively participate in the narrative and contribute to the improvement of one of the key global sectors — health care — as I shared my thoughts, experiences and outlook with my peers at the WEF’s panel discussion on “The Hospital of the Future”.

We need to work together to change the course global communities have taken over the last few years. In my opinion, we have reached the point of social awareness that will enable us to move forward in a positive direction.

I am delighted to see I am not alone in this optimism, as PwC’s 21st Annual Global CEO Survey, confirmed. Namely, 57 per cent of business leaders say they believe global economic growth will improve in the next 12 months. It’s almost twice the level of last year and the largest ever increase since 2012. And even though as much as 52 per cent of leaders in the Middle East are in agreement with their global peers, geopolitical uncertainties and cyber threats are the key issues that hinder their positivity.

According to the Institute of International Finance, the UAE is the best managed economy in the region … and global leaders agree with this. For the first time since PwC has been conducting this CEO survey, the UAE has entered the ranks of the top 15 countries for global investment.

Compared to its GCC peers, the UAE has continuously recorded positive economic results, primarily due to the political stability and the early — and high — adoption of diversification which cushioned the impact of lower oil prices. In addition, according to the Global Islamic Economy Report 2017-18, the UAE has been ranked first among 10 countries in three sector indicators — modest fashion, halal media and recreation, and halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. This is just one more example of the synergy between the government’s vision and the practice of the private sector.

The introduction of VAT is expected to yield the equivalent of 1-1.5 per cent of GDP in revenues. These revenues will be shared by individual emirates and the federal government and will further encourage efficiency and generate savings. However, in the short term, this will have an impact on the population as some analysts predict that the inflation will climb from 2.5 per cent in 2017 to 4 per cent in 2018, but will moderate to around 3 per cent in 2019, as the initial impact of the VAT wears off.

However, by keeping the services of rent, education and health care at the zero rate, I believe that the government is trying to put the least amount of burden on the public at large.

In the UAE, the health care sector has witnessed an extended period of high growth. According to a report by Mena Research Partners (MRP), the UAE’s health care sector was valued in 2015 at Dh64 billion, but is expected to grow by 60 per cent to Dh100 billion in 2021.

Over the last several years we have seen many trend-changing drivers navigating the sectors, such as: going from an undersupply of infrastructure to saturation in a few pockets; shift from curative to preventive care; prevalence of chronic diseases; privatisation; an ageing population; cost-reduction; medical tourism; and the adoption of new technologies.

In addition, the health care sector in the UAE is witnessing structural shifts and, as a result, is changing fast to adapt to the demands of a younger, more health-conscious population asking for preventive care rather than curative care and, along the way, is more engaged in its own well-being. As an active participant in the development of the UAE health care sector, I have seen this first-hand.

In addition, initiatives by the Dubai Health Authority and Department of Health — Abu Dhabi to promote medical tourism, as well as the increased penetration of mandatory insurance, will significantly contribute to the sector’s growth in 2018.

The development of digital technologies represents a huge opportunity to transform the health care sector in a way that increases efficiency as well as quality, and the UAE has been at the forefront of the adoption of these advancements. As I state in my address at the WEF’s panel discussion, health care and technology go hand in hand.

Innovative technologies in health care, especially in areas of remote monitoring of disease via wearable diagnostic gadgets; early diagnosis of a disease; prenatal diagnosis and treatment of the diseases; and the way we look at some of the degenerative diseases of today, shall change the future of health care locally and globally.

The next big disruption will be health care and it will be brought about by powerful technologies. We are working towards that journey of becoming a part of this constructive disruption in health care. Artificial intelligence (AI) in health care, although still in its infancy stage, holds a lot of promise.

Areas under intense research are developing algorithms that use deep learning, machine vision and correlating the patient data with clinical insights to automatically highlight the areas of probable interest to a physician. It will also play an important role in clinical documentation and record keeping. The overall goal of AI in patient care is to achieve a timely and an accurate diagnosis.

We have successfully enhanced the level of complexities offered at NMC’s facilities through both organic and inorganic expansion; established a firm foothold in Saudi Arabia and the broader GCC; and continue to establish centres of excellence in key specialities within existing hospitals. As our business grows, we are looking to add complexities in the form of new verticals, enter exciting new markets and deeply integrate technology to expand the very boundaries of the health care sector.

To properly capitalise on new growth opportunities, we are updating its growth strategy framework outlined in 2015.

This year will bring its own set of challenges for which all sectors need to be prepared and embrace them to the fullest to achieve further successes for the country.

The writer is CEO of NMC Health.

Source: Gulf News

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