Equipping healthcare for future resilience

21 February 2021
Digital innovation and cutting-edge research are vital to the long-term success of the UAE’s healthcare sector

Innovation is critical in the healthcare sector, where digital solutions are playing an increasingly important role.

The sector is evolving from a fee-for-service system to one of value-added care. In addition, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital delivery of critical health services and processes.

In this context, Expo 2020 Dubai’s recent Health & Wellness week sought to examine the innovations and technologies that are transforming the way communities address global health concerns.

“We believe life sciences and health are closely linked to technology,” says Micha van Lin, managing director of Task Force Health Care, a network of Dutch organisations in the life sciences and health sector.

He says that the Netherlands has a “dense ecosystem of high-level healthcare corporations that bring in cutting-edge technologies”.

“They have an innovative and pragmatic approach to creating digital healthcare solutions that will enhance the customer experience,” he says.

“In the life sciences and health sector there is continuous cross-pollination between science, business, government and knowledge institutes. Our academic medical centres distinguish themselves through the integration of scientific research, education and patient care.

"These innovative solutions can be integrated and adapted to any healthcare sector in the Middle East region and even worldwide.”

Expo participation

Companies from the Netherlands exhibited the latest innovations, best practices and high-tech solutions at the Netherlands’ pavilion during Expo 2020’s Health & Wellness week.

Industry-leading Dutch businesses showcased technologies with varying clinical applications, ranging from artificial intelligence solutions to patient portals and interactive health and wellness applications.

“These solutions will give people an opportunity for easier access to a wide range of healthcare professionals and provide a better understanding of their own health,” says Van Lin, adding that digital healthcare, or “e-health”, solutions could also help to keep healthcare affordable.

Improved data security

While data security is a top priority when it comes to digital health platforms, patient privacy must be balanced with the accessibility of data for healthcare providers.

“The MedicalMe programme ... puts patients in charge of their own data,” says Van Lin. “They control who gets access via an app, maintaining the highest data security and privacy protocols.

“On the healthcare provider side, doctors use integrated software that guarantees the secure and safe exchange of sensitive health data.

These are some of the ways the Netherlands works to empower patients, as well as to enable medical professionals in doing the best job they can without risking sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.”

Van Lin notes that the Netherlands has more than 3,100 life sciences companies, eight medical university centres and 12 universities engaged in biomedical research.

In recent years, many countries have deployed solutions from the Netherlands to improve their healthcare systems, he adds.

UAE innovation

The UAE is keen to advance the scope of research and innovation taking place in the local healthcare system.

“Innovation is one of the main processes by which changes come about,” says Reem al-Gurg, director of strategy and institutional excellence and assistant professor of health policy at Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine & Health Sciences (MBRU).

“Often, innovation is the only way to achieve your policy goal,” she says, highlighting the importance of global partnerships to boost local strengths.

MBRU’s Summer Scholars programme assists undergraduate medical students to find placements at local, regional and international research and medical institutions.

In March 2019, MBRU launched a strategic partnership with Emirates Scientists Council, under the latter’s OpenLabs initative, to establish an environment that supports research and scientists as part of the UAE’s National Advanced Sciences Agenda 2031. Through this agreement, researchers from various disciplines are able to access MBRU’s science laboratories and research centres.

MBRU also works with a wide network of local universities through workshops curated by the team at the institution’s innovation hub MBRU Design Lab, supported by Al Wasl Asset Management Group.

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