Increased adoption of digital health technology is poised to unlock a nearly $230 billion market globally, including $10bn in the Middle East, over the next five years, the World Government Summit and McKinsey & Company said in a report on Wednesday.
Digital health is set to grow in the coming years and governments have a role to play in the “degree and speed” with which digital technologies are adopted and can enable or hinder progress, the report said.
Digital health technologies, such as patient telemedicine, online pharmacies and wearables, gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as more consumers stayed indoors and avoided personal visits to hospitals.
It led to a greater acceptance of digital health technologies by consumers, patients and practitioners, the said.
“Health care will play a significant role in building and empowering the new generation of governments,” said Mohamed Yousef AlSharhan, deputy managing director of the World Government Summit Organisation.
“To leverage on this opportunity … proactive research on the transformations and trends will support in developing strategies, exploring opportunities and challenges, and developing effective solutions for the betterment of society.”
Companies were tapping into digital healthcare markets by refining their business models as demand grew during the pandemic.
Healthcare spending in the GCC is projected to reach $89 billion this year from $60bn in 2013, global consultancy KPMG said.
A recent McKinsey study found that the healthcare industry was in the bottom three of 20 sectors in digital advancement globally.
This is a result in part because of no digital health laws, ambiguous laws, limited reimbursement terms and a lack of regulation of what may occur online in digital health.
“Digital health can unlock tremendous value for governments in enhancing health systems’ operational efficiency, patient experience and patient outcomes,” said Panco Georgiev, senior partner at McKinsey & Company.
“It can also address some of the key challenges in the healthcare sector, like increasing access to care and mitigating rising healthcare costs.”
The latest report suggested six options in innovation for governments to scale their digital health services.
These include using algorithm-based approvals systems, combining urban planning with public health, creating a lifetime digital twin for every resident, sponsoring global and intelligent patient passports, supporting next-generation learning powered by analytics and creating digital health bonds.
In health care, a human digital twin is a virtual version of an individual that enables replications of her health over time through modelling of complex physical and biochemical processes.
It can be used to predict disease risks and create personal preventive interventions and treatment plans, the report said.
The report emphasised unified “patient passports”.
A patient passport is designed to eliminate redundancies and provide practitioners with a fuller picture of patients’ health, leading to better outcomes.
This could be achieved through inter-system data sharing that would allow data entered in one system to populate other relevant systems, the report said.