Over the last few decades, the healthcare sector has focused primarily on treating patients when they get sick, rather than monitoring people’s health and lifestyle in order to prevent them from getting ill in the first place.
In August, Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare, one of the biggest healthcare providers in the GCC, operating 25 hospitals, 111 clinics and 238 pharmacies in nine countries and employing around 20,600 staff, set about challenging this status quo with the launch of the Aster Innovation and Research Centre. The facility, which has been established in the Indian city of Bangalore, aims to leverage the advances in digital health research, such as artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, blockchain, the Internet of Things and behavioural economics.
The centre will do this by partnering with universities, start-ups and industry partners and will be led by Dr Satish Prasad Rath, MD, a post-graduate medical doctor and a digital health scientist with experience leading research and innovation labs at Xerox Innovation Group, Wipro Technologies, Intel labs and Philips Research.
Aster DM Healthcare hopes the project will be the catalyst for ‘a quantum leap’ in the the region’s healthcare service and help move the focus away from sickcare and back towards preventative care.
“We are very excited about our new innovation and research lab, there is a lot of very exciting things happening in healthcare but it is important for us to understand what will work,” Alisha Moopen, Deputy Managing Director at Aster DM Healthcare, told Arabian Business in the latest Enterprise Innovators video.
Making lives better
“The whole idea of the innovation lab is, with the 20 million patients we see annually, how is it that we can make their lives better? How is it that we can make people healthier or make the entire experience better for them? There is a lot of testing of new technology that is going on, which should enable people to get better outcomes.”
In Dubai, residents are accustomed to using new technology to order their lunch on an app, hail a taxi or get their groceries and shopping delivered straight to their door. Moopen believes the demands and expactations on healthcare are no different.
“Convenience is another huge benefit technology will bring, people will not have to wait on a phone to get an appointment with a doctor,” Moopen says.
In 2020, patients no longer have to wait on the end of the telephone to get a doctor’s appointment and can communicate with healthcare experts via their phone or laptop. Once a diagnosis has been made and medication is required, prescriptions can now been delivered straight to their door at the click of a button and using online payments. “So the primary care should be done in the comfort of your own home… That will make things so much more accessible, so much more convenient, and will mean it becomes cheaper as well,” Moopen believes.
Home sweet home
Advances in technology has made it possible to make the shift away from hospitals and third party buildings and back to the patient’s own home.
“The biggest innovation that we would like to see happen is the shift back to the home. What used to happen was, if you go back centuries, doctors would go to people’s homes to see them when they were sick. But, as technology evolved and we had these large machines like CT scans and MRI come in, you saw a shift where people had to go from their homes to a hospital. [Healthcare operators] had to build brick and mortar buildings to house these machines because you couldn’t replicate these and take them across to people’s homes,” Moopen says.
This renewed focus on healthcare in the home and the prioritisation of prevention over sickcare has been made possible through recent technological innovations and the use of personal data to determine a customer’s wellbeing and anticipate any healthcare issues in advance.
“Typically, what is happening right now is you fall ill or you break something and then you go for some episodic management. What everyone is seeing, and the shift that needs to happen, is how do you actually protect what you have, how do you maintain what you have and how do you improve your health?
At the touch of a button
“What we are seeing is wearables giving very important information, even if it is just interesting to see how your Fitbit or your Apple Watch is tracking your movement, your sleep, how many steps you are doing… That information, when you connect it to how much you are sleeping, what you are eating, the quality of your sleep, how much movement you are making, that is what taking care of your health really means. So that information and that counselling and that health coaching is what is going to make the difference in taking care of your health,” she believes.
Using technology to improve the lives of residents is a key focus for UPS and Expo 2020 Dubai. When Expo 2020 opens its door later this year on October 20, 2020, the six-month event will be a focal point for the latest innovative ideas, inventions, insights and advancements the emirates, and the wider Arab world, has to offer.
Ahead of the launch of Expo 2020, the Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series was developed in association with global logistics company UPS, the official logistics partner of Expo 2020. While UPS is a company that is more than a century old, has a global remit and has more than 481,000 employees, it has always been a catalyst for change and innovation.
“It’s hard to say what the single greatest innovation has been. Being in the midst of the technology revolution, there are so many. UPS is a vast organisation so areas like alternative fuel vehicles to healthcare drones come to mind but then there’s technology improvements in how our drivers capture package / shipment details have a massive impact on customer information and satisfaction. They improve the system significantly,” says Hussein Wehbe, managing director for UPS in the Middle East.
Arabian Business and UPS hope this series will showcase the wide range of innovations that are already taking place in companies across the United Arab Emirates and within a diverse range of sectors, including healthcare, retail, transport and finance.
“The Enterprise Innovators Series will run across print, digital and video and we are looking for companies, large and small, who have seen the rewards from taking risks, who are rethinking and disrupting traditional models and who are developing new ways of operating,” says Shane McGinley, Editorial Director of Arabian Business.