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30th June 2021
The UAE – UK Business Council hosted a webinar on digital healthcare and smart hospitals to coincide with Arab Health in Dubai on 28 June 2021. DHI was delighted to participate with our CEO, Professor George Crooks OBE, presenting to support international trade and investment.
Chaired by Dr Tariq Ali, Vice-Chair of the Healthcare Working Group and Vice-Provost for Research & Innovation, University of Birmingham Dubai, the session included leading practitioners and entrepreneurs from both countries, including MyWay Digital Health, the Digital Health Institute of Scotland, Okadoc, the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, Priory Group, and Al Tamimi.
Dr Ali introduced the event by outlining how the pandemic had driven the acceleration of innovation and growth in the digital health sector globally and how policies and regulations were having to move at a similar pace in order to enable this evolution to happen in a managed way, particularly in relation to data handling.
Professor George Crooks, CEO, Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, Scotland, stressed that we were not moving into a post-Covid era, but an era where we would have to learn to live alongside Covid. The next generation of future health care would place the citizen at its centre and would empower them to take ownership of their own healthcare – data regulation would have to be designed in such a way as to encourage this to happen.
Andrea Tithecott, Partner and Head of Regulatory Practice, Al Tamimi & Company, outlined recent developments in telehealth regulation in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Dubai Healthcare City, and federally across the UAE. Of particular relevance to UK practitioners was that Abu Dhabi introduced new telemedicine standards in 2020 which enabled physicians outside the UAE to provide telemedicine services in the UAE in partnership with locally licensed providers. Dubai Health Authority introduced similar standards in 2019, and Dubai Healthcare City had introduced its own standards – which only applied within the free zone. Over the last year regulators had been keen to update these standards to enable operators to be more nimble and innovative during the Covid crisis – while some of these measures might prove to be temporary, others were likely to be permanent, given that the world was likely to be living with Covid for the foreseeable future. In terms of data, while there was no GDPR equivalent in the UAE, there was a requirement for data localisation.
Dirk Richter, Senior Adviser, Healthcare Quality, Ministry of Health, added that there was scope for greater alignment between the four regulatory regimes in the UAE. He added that there was a strong ecosysytem for incubating telemedicine startups in the UAE, and he citied Hub 71 in Abu Dhabi as a model for such incubators.
Three companies then presented case studies: Okadoc (www.okadoc.com), a one-stop shop for patients to book appointments in the UAE, which reduced the time taken to book an appointment with an appropriate practitioner, reduced no-shows (which at 37% in the UAE, was above the global average) and created a more seamless engagement between patient, doctor and insurer; Priory Connect, (www.prioryconnect.co.uk) an online platform
developed by Priory Group and SME partners, intended to offer video consultations and other online services, which was scaled up rapidly during the pandemic, when in-person consultations became impractical; and MyWay Digital Health (www.mywaydigitalhealth.co.uk), an online data-driven platform for managing diabetes, which affected 10% of the world’s population. MyWay used machine learning to assess risk and the impact of behaviour change at an individual level, and could be applied to all types of diabetes, not just Type 2. Accelerators and Innovation funding played a significant role in the growth of MyWay. The company had now established an onshore presence in Dubai and was licensed by Dubai Health Authority.
The importance of data in healthcare was discussed in depth. George Crooks emphasised that people wanted to access healthcare on their own terms and only wanted to tell their story once, not repeat it to many different practitioners. Andrea Tithecott stressed that data was everything – but it remained important for regulators to control how it was managed and used. The regulator’s role was to enable rather than impede data security, quality. Although data localisation was important for the UAE, it was now exploring potential exemptions, such as for research. Finally, the importance of creating compatible ecosysystems between jurisdictions was discussed.