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The era of more efficient and better health care is ahead of us
The National /Shamsheer Vayalil
Filed on 2017-04-24 | Last updated on 2018-02-20 12:11:04

As the UAE establishes its development agenda and enables a new era for healthcare, we have an opportunity to create a new global standard, writes Shamsheer Vayalil 

We are riding the cusp of a technological wave that promises to improve almost every aspect of day-to-day living. In health care, these advancements will bring benefits such as more personalised care, lower costs and improved quality of life. Imagine capsules that are designed and manufactured to not only release the right amount of medication, but in the right place at the right time. Similarly, prosthetics could self-adjust with the growth of patients.

Health care systems around the world are challenged with failing infrastructure and often the inability to provide people with access to the right treatments and solutions due to budget constraints and inefficiencies. It is estimated that health care spending globally will go from nearly $10 trillion now to $18.28 trillion by 2040. But does a successful health care system require increased government spending or do we need to reinvent the model as we know it?

The industry has been built on a philosophy of medical solutions for the masses and this model has not dramatically changed since inception. With time, this has resulted in growing pressures on our health systems, while limiting the potential benefit of treatments. There is now an exciting period of hope and transformation in health care that looks to use data and technology. While two patients may have the same diagnosis, future treatments might be altered based on their medical history and genetic make-up.

Within the use of technology and data for patients, we see the emergence of key trends that will change medical experiences for patients.

The use of telemedicine technology, for example, can allow doctors to engage with patients, irrespective of their geographic location. This not only limits the need for appointments in person, but also drives efficiencies across the medical industry.

At the health care group I founded, we recently created a 3-D printed model of a patient’s hip before carrying out a complex hip replacement surgery. This enabled doctors to learn the precise points where implants were required, saving operating time, reducing blood loss, and speeding recovery.

Looking further into the future, medicines themselves will be transformed, with the potential of being customised for every patient’s requirements. 3D printing of medicines can offer significant improvements over conventional manufacture.

The next stage, 4-D printing – in which printed structures change form in response to environment such as temperature or water – will push the boundaries further, paving the way for materials that can adapt as patients recover and heal.

The health care of the future will be on our own terms. We are already seeing how data generated from electronic medical records, telemedicine platforms and remote monitoring tools offer insights that enable disease prevention and better health care delivery. As data becomes more extensive, connectivity faster and devices smarter, providers will be able to use this information to enhance the overall patient experience, beyond the four walls of a hospital.

These types of technologies offer safer, faster and tailored treatments. They harness the power of innovation, achieving a far greater degree of personalisation and precision in medicine than has ever been possible.

In the UAE, we must be at the forefront of these advancements to propel the growth of our health care sector, which is set to grow by more than 60 per cent to approximately Dh103 billion ($28 billion) by 2021.

The journey towards a diversified economy has only just begun. Robust manufacturing capabilities, together with the vision of the leadership, will drive progress and the broader transformation of the health care industry. However, to make this a long-term success, we need to create a system of efficiency that benefits all concerned.

As the UAE establishes its development agenda and enables a new era for health care, we have an opportunity to create a new global standard founded on synergies between technology, and data, and a commitment to create better patient solutions.

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil is the Chairman and Managing Director of VPS Healthcare, which operates hospitals and health care centres throughout the Middle East and India.