Use of technology can cut UAE healthcare costs, say experts

Experts at the Health 2.0 Middle East conference recommend high-tech solutions to expensive health problems.

DUBAI // The UAE will have to embrace medical innovations known collectively as Health 2.0 to prevent care costs spiralling out of control, according to an expert.

“In the UAE, 62 per cent of national health expenditure is paid for by the government, so the economics are there to be able to afford health care,” said Kenneth Seymens, a partner in the Dubai-based health technology company Medica IQ.

“Diseases of affluency such as hypertension, cardiovascular, diabetes and cancer are increasing and adversely impacting the healthcare delivery model in terms of finance in the UAE.

“We have to utilise technologies we are mentioning in the conference to help reduce downstream costs.”

Mr Seymens, one of the organisers of the Health 2.0 Middle East conference, which began in Dubai yesterday, said the adoption of these new technologies was at a nascent stage in the region but had huge potential.

The Health 2.0 trend began in San Francisco in 2007 and is used to describe the use of new technologies, such as smartphone apps, sensors and trackers to monitor the condition of patients, social media and telemedicine – the provision of health care from a distance using IT systems.

The Dubai event is the first to be held in the region.

The speakers included the former United States astronaut Bernard Harris, a doctor who took part in two shuttle missions and walked in space. He revealed that one of his inspirations was the Star Trek character, Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and said some of the science fiction technology used by the Starship Enterprise’s medic was now becoming fact.

“I think the UAE can have an opportunity to put in place a premier healthcare system,” he said.

Dr Harris is chief executive of Versailus Ventures, a US company that funds the development of new medical technology.

One of the products he showcased was a robot doctor, used in about 100 US hospitals, designed to make ward rounds. The robot is operated by a doctor at a remote location who has access to the patient’s medical data.

The conference continues today at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.