Dubai government plans to further improve healthcare quality through automation
The healthcare industry in Dubai is set to grow exponentially, with demand for world-class medical service currently outpacing supply. To meet the growing demand on the local and regional level, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) outlined a strategy that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to largely automate the process, in addition to identifying key public-private partnerships and contributing with weighty healthcare investments.
Burgeoning healthcare market swells in the billions
According to Alpen Capital, the UAE healthcare market is expected to grow 12.7%, to nearly US$20BN (AED 71.56BN) by 2020. The UAE leads in the top 20 countries in the world with US$1,200 per capita spend on healthcare (AED 4,400), which is indicative of residents’ trust in local medical establishments to deliver the same (if not better) medical treatment in the UAE as in Europe or the USA. To satisfy medical seekers on the local and international level, the Dubai government is supporting the growth in the medical industry with investments and ambitious initiatives. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) introduced Dubai Health Strategy 2021, which focuses on technology and automation, in particular with AI and robotics.
Innovating medical care one step at a time
The first 3D-printed prosthetic leg developed in the region was revealed at the 2017 Arab Health Forum. The creation of the 3D leg was a step in the right direction to reducing the cost of prosthetics in the region, and the world at large. Currently, prosthetic limbs can go as high as US$50,000 a piece, but 3D printed limb technology shows promise that the price can be brought down significantly. Dubai’s 3D printed medical products market alone is expected to be valued at US$463M (nearly AED2BN) by 2025 and the average cost of a custom-made limb anticipated to be priced at just US$105 (AED 400).
Continuing in the same vein, AI technology can not only reduce the cost of service and products in healthcare, but can also free up more time for healthcare professionals. At the end of 2017, Dubai Hospital introduced a robot pharmacist that is capable of storing up to 35,000 medications and deliver 12 prescriptions per minute. Paper use will also go down as prescriptions are sent to the robot immediately after a doctor types the prescription onto their computers. The pharma robot is the second of its kind in the UAE, with the first stationed at Rashid hospital.
In preventative care, AI is being used for early detection in eye disease as well as radiology imaging. At Innovation month 2018 the DHA revealed that one of their AI programmes was able to accurately detect diabetic retinopathy 96% of the time after being fed thousands of eye-scans. The success of this programme has positive implications for patients of diabetes and eye diseases that come as a result of it: they’d be able to receive their test results faster and get treated sooner thanks to early detection. This programme could potentially bring down the overall cost of retinal complications.
Prognosis of Dubai’s healthcare market is positive, but not without its challenges
The UAE public is ready to receive AI healthcare with open arms. According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the MENA region at large and the UAE in particular are embracing AI-aided healthcare. 38 per cent of UAE respondents surveyed agreed to have their hearts monitored by AI, 33 per cent agreed to have customised advice for health and fitness, and 30 per cent agreed to have blood taken and tested by a robot.
With medical tourism already on the rise (and predicted to reach US$708M / AED 2.6BN by 2020), Dubai is blazing a trail in both innovative care and top-tier health facilities for medical seekers in the MENA. But in order to meet the increasing demand for better healthcare, there are gaps in the market that the DHA has identified in order to move forward, namely: investment in R&D and training, government regulation, and service delivery. The DHA outlined clear initiatives in order to tackle these challenges, tailoring solutions for each vertical to programmes under the larger umbrella strategy.
With the legal framework and foreign partnerships in place, and AI already making strides in local medical circles, it won’t be long before Dubai will secure its position as a global leader in health technology.