AGM2020: 4 Lessons Learned about the Future of Healthcare from H.E. Zaid Al Siksek
We were very lucky to have had the chance to speak to His Excellency Zaid Al Siksek at our virtual AGM in October. His career so far speaks volumes to his expertise in the area of healthcare in the United Arab Emirates and the region more broadly. He is the former CEO of Abu Dhabi’s Health Authority, where he foresaw an industry transformation project that ultimately led to the modernization of Abu Dhabi’s health sector into a decentralized system with an independent regulatory function, universal health insurance and a maximum of private sector involvement. He paved the way for the creation of a world-class healthcare sector for present and future generations in the Emirate. This is only one of many areas where Zaid excels. Today, he is the founder of BlueAppleHealthcare Partners, a $300 million fund, investing in a number of innovative ventures in the area of healthcare.
With the pandemic spotlighting inefficiencies in the industry across the world, conversations around the future of healthcare are being revived.H.E. Zaid Al Siksek shed his expert light on these issues, emphasizing the need for a renewal in the ways we have traditionally conceptualized health. Here are four key takeaways from our insightful chat with Zaid.
1. Facility design is important, but patient expectations are shifting toward improved outcomes and that’s where technology will add the most value.
A number of factors have a direct influence on a patient’s journey. In the past, it was the facility’s design and equipment, the amount of services on offer, the quality of practitioners as well as geographical proximity. Today, having a positive healthcare experience rests primarily on how a patient is engaging with all of these factors. In the UAE, hospitals and clinics have already hit the nail on the head when it comes to design, boasting some of the region’s most prestigious and luxurious facilities. However, look and feel gets old rather quickly. Today’s patients want and expect exceptional treatment and meaningfully improved health outcomes. Additionally, in a country where 80% of healthcare workers are expats, the challenge is to create an environment where practitioners with different qualifications and backgrounds are trained to deliver care in ways that meet a local patient’s specific demands and within the regulatory framework in which they operate.
Meeting such expectations is ultimately a matter of developing and implementing the right technology, and the right technology for healthcare is heavily data-reliant. The best tools are analytical and adaptive in nature: they capture patient data at every point of contact, process it into tangible information through algorithms, distribute it to caretakers and stakeholders across the value chain, allowing them to identify inefficiencies and gaps and to redress them to optimize the patient’s journey. Being able to adopt and integrate this type of technology is essential to enhance healthcare capabilities.
2. The biggest challenge for AI and analytics being used in healthcare in MENA is the absence of a common platform.
In the smartphone industry, a common operating system standardizes the provision of applications, services and features. There is no Android or IOS equivalent in the healthcare industry. Apple’s operating system, for instance, allows different innovators to standardize product development to meet a specific set of criteria that allows all their applications to sit on that common platform. The main impediment for AI to truly disrupt the provision of care is the absence of this single system that enables and facilitates health information exchanges.
3. Technology will not replace, but enhance.
The healthcare industry has been slower than others in adopting standardized technology and effectively processing data that actually helps improve a patient’s health outcomes. Across systems, the pace of change has been slow. Disruptive technologies are infrequent with the MRI being the last most revolutionary piece of equipment to enter the space… in the 1980s.
While mass information is being collected and Hospital InformationSystems (HIS) are being implemented across the board, the holistic and collaborative element - being able to integrate all healthcare stakeholders including payers, providers, patients, and regulators - is still missing in the industry. Crucially, unlike more mature markets, the region is especially well-positioned to cut corners and leapfrog into these new fully-digitized and integrated health models. The availability of investment and capital in this part of the world is an enabling factor for these essential shifts to take place.
The common platform, discussed above, is the only and most effective tool for meaningful data collection and processing in the medical industry. This will not replace doctors or surgeons but will fundamentally improve a practitioner's ability to make more informed clinical decisions, be more attentive to detail and prevent medical errors. With a standardized platform, AI is poised to enhance, not replace.
4. You can standardize your operations and still deliver personalized care.
Personalized care is the future of health, and is projected to be the largest industry disruptor of our times. Today, we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible at the intersection of health and technology. However, as we observe the progress and innovation achieved in the field of genomics and the current capabilities of predictive modeling, individualized care is closer than we think. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to reach the point of self-healing, but that we will achieve a level of precision that will allow each and every person to experience healthcare on a hyper personalized level. This is necessary because each patient carries a unique genetic and anatomical composition that requires individualized care and attention.
Standardization is a broader, industry-level, goal that enables personalized care to be delivered. By integrating healthcare stakeholders into a single operating system, data is more efficiently and holistically collected, providing a more accurate depiction of an individual patient’s medical history.
Healthcare was a recurring theme during our AGM - and with good reason. All these different discussions, however, led to a single conclusion: collaboration is the name of the game in the healthcare industry with technology as its backbone.