The MENA embraces more healthtech advancements

Various MENA countries have already started implementing advanced robotics and healthtech applications (Image via Pixabay).

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The global healthcare expenditure will be growing from $7.7 trillion in 2013 to $9.6 trillion in 2018. Digital transformation is impacting the healthcare space far beyond the product by tapping into the information dimension, which is accentuating the global growth of the healthtech market, in a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent over 2013-2020 from $61 billion to $233 billion.

This wave is not only happening in developed countries as various activities are taking place to also involve less privileged regions, primarily in Africa and Asia.

PATH, an international nonprofit organization leading in global health innovation, by mobilizing partners around the world, announced ‘Digital Square’. The new initiative, comprised of over 40 partner organizations, encourages more efficient investment in digital health technology solutions in low- and middle-income countries through an innovative co-investment model. “Co-investment is a simple but powerful concept. Development dollars are scarce; by coordinating them, we can maximize the impact of our financial investments,” said Dykki Settle, director of digital health at PATH.

The initiative offers a platform for individuals and organizations to confidently coordinate their funding and technical expertise into a suite of proven, adaptable digital health technologies. These solutions can be scaled across an entire country, and even between countries. Digital Square also helps to support countries to develop the skills they need at all levels—from national government leaders to local healthcare workers—to bring these technologies to scale. Digital Square is a USAID program designed and funded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

People in the MENA regionare more willing to embrace technology (Image via Pixabay).

The MENA market is ready

According to a PwC report ‘Middle East consumers ready to embrace AI and robotics for their healthcare needs’, a majority of consumers are willing to receive care from these advanced technologies, which are meant to disrupt the way people access and benefit from healthcare.

Another PwC report dubbed ‘What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define new health’, based on a commissioned survey of over 11,000 people from 12 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, found that across the EMEA region, more than half of respondents (55 percent) said they were willing to use advanced computer technology or robots with AI that can answer health questions, perform tests, make a diagnosis and recommend treatment. This further accentuates people’s trust in technology which stimulates its broader reach, not to forget the ‘human touch’, which remains a key component of the healthcare experience.

Dr. Tim Wilson, Middle East health industries leader at PwC, said: “Whether we like it or not, AI and robotics are the future of healthcare, and the Middle East is poised to take advantage [...] When you combine clinical workforce shortages in the Middle East, with more positive factors like a young, digitally minded population that is willing to adopt AI and robotics, PwC thinks the Middle East could leapfrog other countries in these technologies. We would like to see the Middle East invest and become a global centre of excellence for AI and robotics in healthcare, bringing benefits locally and becoming a place that other countries look to for healthcare innovation.”

On another level, volatile oil prices have placed strain on the Middle East’s oil-exporting countries, resulting in a redoubled focus on economic diversification. The long term plans of many GCC countries include increasing diversification, attracting investment, growing the SME sector and private-sector jobs, and increaseing GDP and exports. Converging new technologies offer an alternative to traditional routes to development, and make it possible for countries to enter new industry sectors, namely robotics, with relative ease.

Execution is already on track

Different countries have already started implementing advanced robotics and healthtech applications. Starting with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom announced in last October the building of NEOM, a city that will be powered by solar and wind energy, and is likely to have more robots than people living there. The U.A.E. appointed Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama as the country’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, in an attempt to accentuate the country’s willingness to become an AI hub on all levels. Earlier in 2017, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) inaugurated a smart pharmacy with the first robot in the Middle East for dispensing and prescribing medication in Rashid Hospital. The robot, which can store up to 35,000 medicines and dispenses around 12 prescriptions in less than one minute, already started serving customers. The robot dispenses the prescribed medication with a click of a bottom based on a barcode, minimising any human error.

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