Why innovation is critical in healthcare

Over the course of six months, Expo 2020 Dubai has given us a glimpse at the possibilities of the future for different industries — and healthcare is no exception.

Sherif Beshara, Group CEO at Mohamed & Obaid Almulla Group, the holding company of American Hospital Dubai, says, “Healthcare is a global priority, and innovations and breakthroughs are a common catalyst for humanity’s well-being. Expo 2020 engineered this transformation that leads us to change further for a more sustainable tomorrow.”

Healthcare is a global priority, and innovations and breakthroughs are a common catalyst for humanity’s well-being.

– Sherif Beshara, Group CEO at Mohamed & Obaid Almulla Group, the holding company of American Hospital Dubai

For David Hadley, CEO of Mediclinic Middle East, some of the most interesting developments showcased at Expo 2020 were centred around technologies that can enhance the patient journey. “I was quite intrigued with Etisalat’s strategy to digitise the patient experience at hospitals, something we are continuing to explore directly with them.”

Dr Siddiq Anwar, Consultant Physician at Shaikh Shakhbout Medical City, highlights various panel discussions being hosted at country pavilions that addressed the challenges the sector faced in delivering high-quality healthcare across emerging economies in Asia and Africa.

Bringing the Expo to the UAE created a kind of melting pot, where people from different walks of life — software engineers, healthcare providers like myself, venture capitalists, investors, regulators — could come together to discuss various unique challenges we are facing in our regions.

– Dr Siddiq Anwar, Consultant Physician at Shaikh Shakhbout Medical City

Dr Anwar, who participated in healthcare panel discussions at the Estonia and Sweden pavilions, adds, “Bringing the Expo to the UAE created a kind of melting pot, where people from different walks of life — software engineers, healthcare providers like myself, venture capitalists, investors, regulators — could come together to discuss various unique challenges we are facing in our regions.”

A lasting legacy

While the showcase mega event captivated visitors over its course, equally significant will be the long-term legacy it bequeaths.

Beshara says, “Expo 2020’s global integration of future-ready concepts in healthcare has enabled change at various levels: knowledge transfer, incubations, partnerships and increased awareness of innovations and applications.

“The grass-root impact of Expo Live’s funding of various global healthcare start-ups has progressed beyond the conceptual stage and is benefitting communities. So that’s a tangible impact right there.”

Not only did Expo showcase the opportunities in this region but it allowed people to experience the wonderful lifestyle of living here which in turn will result in growth in the population that will benefit all sectors, including healthcare.

– David Hadley, CEO of Mediclinic Middle East

Hadley calls the Expo a “resounding success” for Dubai and the UAE. “Not only did it showcase the opportunities in this region but it allowed people to experience the wonderful lifestyle of living here which in turn will result in growth in the population that will benefit all sectors, including healthcare.”

While healthcare has never been as big a challenge for the UAE as it has for many other countries — thanks to a young population — Dr Anwar says, the growth in lifestyle-related diseases will bring with it the need to develop local solutions to tackle the unique challenges that will arise in the UAE’s healthcare ecosystem.

“Right now, you have healthcare providers, universities, regulators, investors and innovators all in the system but not having the chance to network, meet, share ideas, explain the problems and look for solutions, but the Expo has helped us to create new connections and give networking opportunities to people.”

Sustainability focus

Sustainability has come into unprecedented focus over the past six months of Expo for every industry, including healthcare. “Our world is a shared resource, and the pandemic has reiterated this truth,” says Beshara.

Healthcare is a significant participant in the sustainability goal, he explains, adding that many hospitals are minimising their carbon footprint, whether through a reduced output of medical waste, recycling measures, more efficient processes and systems that save energy and cost, or conservation of water and electricity. “Some hospitals also have set up sustainability task forces that ensure they are on track.”

Hadley says the upcoming COP28, which will be hosted by the UAE, will only strengthen the focus on sustainability. Besides ESG measures and carbon footprints, healthcare systems will need to shift away from a fee-for-service to a capitated system, believes Dr Anwar. “This means healthcare organisations have to develop efficient, innovative models of care to ensure they are able to break even for the services they provide.”

Growth areas

In the immediate future, industry experts foresee major investment in digitalisation, telehealth and home-care technologies, preventative and precision medicine.

If Expo 2020 excited us with tantalising possibilities, what follows should be equally interesting. “Every crucible event leads to a legacy of change,” says Beshara. ■

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