The UAE is set to become the world’s top medical tourism destination by 2021 with the total health care expenditure allocation going up from Dh84 billion to Dh101 billion, as the significance of health tourism as an emerging international business becomes increasingly prominent.
While the UAE intensifies efforts to double or triple the number of medical tourists in the next five years, Dubai has been leading this growth, with an aim to attract more than a million medical tourists by 2020. According to a latest data provided by Mena Research Partners, the UAE’s health care sector is undergoing a structural shift, towards a robust 60 per cent growth in the next five years to reach Dh103 million by 2021.
In line with these developments, the UAE Vision 2021 aims to enhance the efficiency, quality and effectiveness of the health care sector through the incorporation of technology and digital transformation.
Health care is one of the industries that is currently ahead in terms of transforming IT operations, as electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) generate large amounts of data. Their introduction have made a huge impact in the industry by standardising the delivery of medical records, enhancing patient care and lowering costs, while significantly reducing medical errors.
The increasing prevalence of electronic records give doctors and staff access to vital life-saving data in real-time from anywhere in the world. This in turn ensures faster delivery of care to patients during emergencies, thereby reducing the chances of complications or severe reactions to medications. Even when the sector benefits significantly from these innovations in a multitude of ways, health care providers’ current IT operations are struggling to keep pace with the exponential growth of patient data in their systems.
In response to the rapid growth of patient data and its vital role in providing quality health care, health care providers are embracing transformative technologies such as cloud and flash to help their organisations become more prepared. With this shift, effective management of associated IT tasks — while still prioritising the needs of patients and medical professionals — has become imperative.
With technological innovations driving dramatic changes across the industry, the shift is profoundly affecting the way care is delivered to patients. The availability of valuable information to providers at the point-of-care (POC) and the ready accessibility of data in real-time, attributed to the increased adoption of cloud solutions, enable faster, educated decisions based on patient history, prevention of medical allergies, drug interactions and other medical errors.
Along with the technological benefits, the security of patient and general health care data has become an indicator of future advances in health care. These discussions point towards the most important aspects of health care IT, which include a strategically designed infrastructure, non-disruptive operations, and a hybrid cloud environment.
The ideal health care IT infrastructure must allow seamless movement and management of data across multiple environments, thereby enhancing responsiveness and access, while meeting critical service levels. As doctors and other caregivers have come to rely on their EHRs to provide quality patient care, downtimes are no longer affordable.
Even a small downtime window with data unavailable to the care team can affect patients’ conditions. A hybrid cloud infrastructure resolves these challenges by enabling health care providers to manage data seamlessly across IT environments, from the doctor’s room to the data centre to the cloud. It will also enable providers to offer better responses without disruption to critical applications.
More advanced technologies such as single integrated EHR platform help health care providers to streamline and simplify operations through an automated, intuitive system. These systems not only improve patient outcomes but also adds value to an organisation’s research resources through the abundance of patient data.
Furthermore, improved efficiencies across purchasing lines will cut down operational costs.
A combination of maturing regulatory climate and the increased adoption of health care technologies are contributing to a period of extraordinary growth for the Gulf’s health care sector. Further complementing the UAE’s continuous efforts to enhance its medical tourism sector with the incorporation of latest technological innovations, the health care sector is poised to witness increased adoption of cloud solutions, to effectively leverage health care data required to serve patients better and faster.
Fadi Kanafani is NetApp’s Senior Director for Middle East & Africa.