FeaturedIssue 02 - 2020MAGAZINE

The beginning of AI revolution in UAE healthcare

The UAE is the first country in the world to have a designated minister for AI

Global healthcare is at a turning point with the deployment of advanced technologies. Data science and machine learning are becoming essential components in developing prescriptive and predictive analytics — and AI-enabled software is transforming the healthcare industry by reducing costs and increasing efficiency in all aspects of patient care. A doctor who can predict a patient’s medical history and present health needs will be able to create personalised treatments that meet the most critical needs for a patient. In addition, this new way of treating patients can also lead to more accurate outcomes.

On the global front, big players such as Google and IBM are collaborating to roll out cutting edge innovations in healthcare. For example, Google’s DeepMind Health has joined forces with a consortium consisting of patients, researchers and clinicians to tackle complex healthcare problems. The company is using technologies such as machine learning and systems neuroscience for the development. These technologies form a powerful general-purpose learning algorithm which can mimic the human brain.

In another example, IBM’s Watson for Health is providing its cognitive technology to different healthcare organisations across the world. Doctors and clinicians can unlock information such as health data and power diagnosis through this innovation. The technology which Watson has can evaluate and preserve complex medical information such as treatment case studies, medical journals and response seamlessly — way faster than humans.

It is reported that the estimated worth of artificial intelligence in the global healthcare market was $3,120 million in 2018 and is expected to increase by $24,700 million within the next 8 years at a CAGR of 25.9 percent over the forecast period. The use of 22 healthcare artificial intelligence tools will generate annual revenue of $8.6 billion by 2025, based on the current trends. The scope of global revenue will surpass $34 billion.

AI is transforming the UAE healthcare
UAE is the first country in the world to have a designated minister for artificial intelligence in 2017. The government assigned Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama as the country’s Minister of State for artificial intelligence. The move by the UAE points to its goals and developments to bring a technological revolution in the country. The development is a big boost for the healthcare space in the country as it has paved the way for new technology innovations. New technologies have been introduced by the UAE’s Ministry of Health which is currently used in the healthcare space for innovations. For example, pods are the new form of innovations which can monitor health and detect early signs of illness among people. The government plans to roll out AI-enabled 24/7 video consultancy for global patients. That said, the Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA) plans to deploy artificial intelligence for treating diabetes retinopathy, which is a severe disease that can lead to permanent sight loss. Also, healthcare and Innovative New Technology is a new breakthrough which can detect strokes among people.

Unique developments in the UAE healthcare
Earlier this year, the UAE’s Ministry of Health rolled out Enayati, an AI-based preventive healthcare platform at the 45th Arab Health. The launch of Enayati platform is part of the country’s National Agenda 2021. The device has the capability to predict any possible health risks and monitor health indicators among people. It is equipped with applications and a set of smart systems that are attached to cardiac patients through sensors. In practice, the sensors will send health indicators and alert the healthcare authorities to take immediate actions in case patients demonstrate cardio-related issues.

Previously, the government of UAE had unveiled 3D printing solutions in healthcare as the country commits to become an important figure in the global 3D printing space. Among the many developments, DHA hospitals will have 3D printing labs. For the proposed project, DHA has partnered with Sinterex, an additive manufacturing healthcare specialist firm. With that, hospitals are anticipated to save more than $3,700 per surgery by using anatomical models.

Virtual hospitals and telemedicine are increasingly popular
Du, a Dubai-based telecommunications company has approached the UAE’s Ministry of Health to launch new innovations to transform the healthcare industry. For that reason, DU signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE’s Ministry of Health at an event in January. According to the agreement, DU will develop and offer smart healthcare services, including a telemedicine app.

Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais, UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention, told the media, “Signing the MoU with Du comes in line with our relentless efforts to keep abreast of and harness the latest international technologies. It is also to support our leadership ambitions to transform itself into a smart government and strengthen the UAE’s leading position as a global hub for smart solutions. We will offer a new generation of sophisticated healthcare services.”

USA-based Mercy Virtual Care Centre’s ehospital is regarded as the world’s first facility dedicated to telehealth. In Abu Dhabi, Mubadala Telemedicine Centre provides telehealth facilities such as telephonic 24/7 medical consultations. In 2019, two companies, Orient Insurance and Allianz Care rolled out the country’s first telemedicine service for international health insurance customers.

Aster DM Healthcare and HealthHub, Dubai-based private healthcare units owned by Al-Futtaim rolled out their own video-conference consultation services. Furthermore, UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said that it has permitted companies to launch telemedicine solutions for use in the country. Even Okadoc, a doctor appointment booking platform, has expressed interest to launch telemedicine solutions in the second half of the year, but due to Covid-19 crisis, the company launched the solution in May. TruDoc 24×7 is also a telemedicine company in the UAE which allows subscribers to speak directly to a doctor at any time of day or night and from anywhere in the world through video, phone or live chat. It also offers a range of services, including specialist referrals, prescriptions, medicine deliveries and telemonitoring. Wellness services on offer include any-time access to wellness experts, customised nutrition and exercise plans, and weight management, sleep disorder and pregnancy programmes.

Sharjah houses the first ehospital in the UAE
Mulk Healthcare, a Sharjah-based healthcare company, has claimed to launch the Middle East’s first virtual hospital in the form of an app. The ehospital will offer healthcare services such as medication, booking appointments, seeking consultations, securing health insurance approvals, diagnosis and prescription. The app allows users to connect with over 2,000 medical specialists from countries such as India, Pakistan, Thailand, the US and the UK including a few European countries. With a single click, users can use services such as initial doctor-consultations and post-hospital care from the comfort of their homes. In 2014, the global telemedicine technologies market was valued at $17.8 bn and is now expected to exponentially increase.

DHA also has its own app Tifli which is exclusively designed for parents and expectant mothers who are looking for a personalised evidence-based content to effortlessly transition through the process of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. Through the app, users can connect different DHA hospitals and doctors to clarify their problems. The application also allows users to monitor and track weight, blood pressure and daily activity such as walking, log meditation and search an experienced doctor. Another striking innovation of DHA is a robot-based smart pharmacy. It was rolled out in 2018 to ease the process of dispensing and prescribing medication. People can purchase their prescribed medications through barcode scanning. The medicine storage capacity of the robots is 35,000 and they can dispense up to nine prescriptions under sixty seconds.

Smart Dubai Initiative — an overview
Smart Dubai, UAE government’s office department which is responsible for transforming the country has launched a new AI-based use case related to the healthcare sector. The AI is designed to help doctors track a patient’s pulse, temperature, blood pressure including other vital signs. As a part of the AI Lab initiative, Smart Dubai has partnered with DHA and IBM for the development. In future, the AI is expected to deliver results, and it will be used in sophisticated services to improve healthcare at large. During the proof of concept, the AI was trained to process the patient’s data.

The data was collected by various patients from different hospitals such as Hatta hospital, Latifa hospital and Dubai hospital. The proof of concept results were astounding as it indicated that the AI managed to detect the deteriorating health conditions in patients with 90 percent to 98 percent accuracy in one hour to 20 hours. Furthermore, the AI will record vital information about any emergency situation such as a patient’s deteriorating condition. These are the features of the pilot which will help DHA and participating hospitals to better understand about the development.

The results of the pilot programme clearly indicates that the AI as an advanced system has the potential to save people’s lives, with a capacity to draw accurate data and respond to patients’ conditions accordingly. The pilot project has sent a clear indication to hospitals on how resources can be managed effectively including the doctors and nurses. Using such technology will enable the medical crew to boost its performance and work on areas which need to be reformed. The AI also delivers complex insights to the medical crew.

More collaborations in healthcare AI
inHealth, a UK-based health technology company and Saal, an Abu Dhabi-based AI company have collaborated to utilise the power of AI and launch cutting edge AI-based healthcare solutions at a lower cost. The partnership was announced in the second half of 2019 and will see both the companies explore untapped areas to enhance healthcare services for the residents of UAE and the Middle East. UAE’s vision of becoming a global tech hub is supported by the country’s private sector. Both the companies will explore and identify areas of collaboration for joint AI initiatives. Saal is expected to play a significant role because it will provide AI-based healthcare tools for inHealth’s extensive product portfolio. The joint initiatives will aim to improve patient’s lifestyle and enhance the quality of healthcare units.

Inside Saal’s portfolio, its innovative AI-based healthcare solutions help patients by providing them symptom diagnosis checker, lifestyle disease checker and medical image recognition. Patients can use the company’s health advisor either in English or Arabic. The health advisor also has some advanced features such as AI Chabot -based interface to recognise medical intent and indirect queries — making it a special product in terms of patient satisfaction. The company offers a special solution to hospitals and care centres known as ‘no-show predictor’. The solution has nearly 80 percent accuracy and can predict whether patients would arrive to an appointment on time.

Coming to the inHealth portfolio, 17,000 end users use its solutions across 4,500 different pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. The company also develops a wide range of advanced cognitive solutions, products and platforms for businesses, in an effort to solve challenging real-life problems for the public sector, healthcare, education and banking sectors. It is the first unified platform solution to prescribe and dispense medication electronically is the Health Information Exchange platform (HIE).

The UAE launches AI to monitor vital signs
The UAE’s Ministry of Health announced an AI-based smart application Medopad for remotely monitoring the body’s vital signs at Arab Health 2019. The application has the potential to review patient’s information and deliver predictive insights which will be able to detect life threatening medical conditions. The application is powered and designed according to patients’ needs. Patients can use it on both IoS and android devices. The application collects data through devices connected to the platform and supports self-management through dashboard. Hence, the application mostly collects data based on daily activities such as walking and running. In practice, it will inform medical care teams to provide better care that suits every person by remotely analysing, reviewing and documenting patients’ data and information.
The UAE’s Ministry of Health’s recent developments

In another partnership, the UAE’s Ministry of Health has collaborated with Pure Health, a leading Healthcare and Medical Supply Company to launch an AI-based device designed to help with irregular heartbeat and curb heart diseases before they occur. The 8gm weight device measures and monitors the electrical signals of the heart’s electrocardiogram, making it simple for patients with heart problems to use it anytime anywhere. The results can be checked through an associated smart app which can be installed on smartphones, desktops and smartwatches. Also, there is a separate website and a cloud portal for doctors where they can download and analyse patient’s records.

In addition, the UAE’s Ministry of Health has introduced a Health Information Exchange system known as Malaffi. The centralised platform is designed to streamline healthcare connectivity for the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It will connect more than 2,000 public and private healthcare providers in Abu Dhabi, catering to the healthcare needs of more than 3 million people in the country. With the introduction of Malaffi, the UAE expects to witness a revolution in the delivery of healthcare as it seamlessly reduces the duplication of healthcare services and also paves the way for physicians to carry out faster and efficient decisions.

Therefore, with Malaffi, the healthcare units are expected to receive improved quality of care and patient outcomes. According to reports, the majority of the UAE’s population are happy to see AI systems being deployed in healthcare. This means new doctors will replace the old ones who cannot use AI tools. It is a change that the UAE’s consumers seem ready for — even though the majority of the population may not fully realise the potential of AI in healthcare.

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