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Healthcare Stakeholders Come Together To Lay The Groundwork For The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention's Innovation Strategy For 2023-26 The Shift brought together multiple stakeholders from across the UAE healthcare ecosystem to discuss how the country can cement its position as having one of the world's best healthcare sectors.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Entrepreneur Middle East

Future-oriented gameplans that can elevate the UAE's healthcare ecosystem's overall performance formed the crux of discourse at The Shift, a special event staged by the country's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) at its headquarters in Dubai on Tuesday, February 28, 2023.

Initiated as an event to lay the groundwork for MOHAP's innovation strategy for 2023 to 2026, The Shift brought together multiple stakeholders from across the UAE healthcare ecosystem to discuss how the country can cement its position as having one of the world's best healthcare sectors.

The Shift's itinerary was drawn largely from the words and vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who was reported to have recently said, "Our goal is to create a vibrant global healthcare hub that serves not only the needs of the people of our nation, but also caters to the growing requirements of our vast region. Aligned with our goal of making the UAE one of the world's best places to live and work, we are on a constantly evolving journey to raise standards of human development and welfare."

Saqr Al Hemeiri, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of Strategy and the Future, MOHAP. Source: Entrepreneur Middle East

In his keynote address at The Shift, Saqr Al Hemeiri, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of Strategy and the Future at MOHAP, touched upon how securing the future of the country's healthcare sector will need a collaborative effort from private and public players within the ecosystem.

"Today, we're starting on a new healthcare agenda for 2023-26, and this will involve facing challenges that we may not have faced before," Al Hemeiri said. "This means we will have to better adapt to change. However, tackling and finding the solution to such hurdles cannot be done in silos, which is why events like The Shift are important for the ecosystem."

The event also saw key stakeholders from the UAE's healthcare sector commenting on how their industry could be revolutionized. In a panel discussion moderated by Sally Mousa, Dr. Erik Koornneef, Director of Research and Innovation, Pure Health, Ghada Sawalmah, CEO, Gargash Hospital, Dr. Shadab Khan, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Applied Sciences, G42 Healthcare, Rania Ashraf, Director of Government Affairs and Policy, Janssen GCC, and Khaldoon Bushnaq, co-founder and CEO, Alma Health, shared their viewpoints on what a new era of healthcare could look like.

Left to right: Khaldoon Bushnaq, co-founder and CEO, Alma Health, Rania Ashraf, Director of Government Affairs and Policy, Janssen GCC, Dr. Shadab Khan, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Applied Sciences, G42 Healthcare, Ghada Sawalmah, CEO, Gargash Hospital, and Dr. Erik Koornneef, Director of Research and Innovation, Pure Health. Source: Entrepreneur Middle East

"I think the challenges that we will face will be all about humans, all about behaviors," Dr. Koornneef said. "So, this event is called The Shift, and I believe the shift in the future of healthcare will be much more focused on wellness instead of illnesses." Dr. Koornneef then also spoke of how new technological innovations such as ChatGPT, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI), can prove to be a major catalyst in furthering the UAE's innovation strategies in healthcare.

Adding to this point was G42 Healthcare's Dr. Khan, who iterated how AI can reimagine the way healthcare services are provided to the end users. "I believe AI will be massively important in improving care outcomes," Dr. Khan said. "We know that the World Health Organization estimates that there will be a shortage of 10 million care professionals by 2030. So it is imperative that we figure out a way to support our care professionals with all the technological tools they need to deliver care better and faster."

Related: Healing Clouds, A Metaverse-Enabled Concept For Enhancing Employee Mental Health, Wins The UAE Ministry Of Health And Prevention's BE BOLD 2022 Program

Janssen GCC's Ashraf then steered the conversation towards the lingering need to ensure preventative measures exist within healthcare. "Off the top of my head, I can tell you that in the case of cancer, a delay in diagnosis by just four weeks can lead to an increase in the rate of mortality, across at least seven to eight cancer types…just four weeks!" Ashraf added. "If you look at diabetes patients- uncontrolled diabetes leads to a 20% increase in cardiac events. That's one in five patients, and we've got a lot of diabetes patients in the UAE. So I think there's no going away from trying to include prevention in all of its methods. Whether it is prevention before the disease happens, or prevention of consequences by ensuring that we do early detections."

Source: Entrepreneur Middle East

On his part, Alma Health's Bushnaq spoke at length about how the mindset of patients in the country is changing towards innovations in the healthcare space, particularly owing to their proven efficiency during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Something we've noticed at Alma Health, as a digital healthcare provider that is fully licensed in the UAE, is that patients have the same expectations from the growing digital healthcare providers in the country as they do from the brick and mortar medical entities," he said. "So it is not that they want their medications to be provided as quickly as possible or consult a doctor as quickly as possible- what they seek is improved clinical outcomes. This is exactly what their expectations are!"

Gargash Hospital's Sawalmah, however, pointed out that while this shift in mindset is promising, there are also many patients who still remain unsure about the benefits of digital health. "Having the patient understand how this is a benefit is still a challenge," Sawalmah added. "There is this perceived fear that the use of machines and AI can just go the other way! And then you have statements by Elon Musk who has said that we might need to slow down on the development of AI, adding to that fear. That is what is in the faces of everyone, and that is what the patient reads. But we need the patient -who is the most important person in this scenario- to play a proactive part in the adoption of telemedicine, AI tools, and the like. That is what will lessen the costs and push us to the next level of collaboration- where it's not just between the public and private sectors, but also with the general public."

Source: Entrepreneur Middle East

In a neat implementation of Sawalmah's concern, following the event's proceedings, attendees of The Shift were invited to participate in roundtable discussions looking into the various considerations that MOHAP should keep in mind for its new innovation strategy. The conversations that ensued touched upon topics ranging from the UAE's legislative system and policies when it comes to healthcare, to the education and training of the next generation of healthcare workers. A report based on the findings and salient points discussed during these roundtable discussions will be released by Entrepreneur Middle East soon.

Related: Weaving Sustainability Into Healthcare: Naam Jamshed, Head of Government Affairs and Policy EMEA - Emerging Markets, Johnson and Johnson

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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