PRECISION HEALTHCARE

Abu Dhabi 2019 | HEALTH | B2B

As lifestyle diseases quickly make inroads into the Emirate, a larger modicum of prevention and education are needed to ensure Abu Dhabi's healthcare system provides its citizens and medical tourists with the most advanced methods available.

Dr. Mishal  Al Kasimi
DR. MISHAL AL KASIMI
CEO
Capital Health
Dr. Jose Lopez
DR. JOSE LOPEZ
CEO
Healthpoint

How are you addressing the emirate's biggest healthcare-related issues?

MISHAL AL KASIMI For Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general, the healthcare sector over the past 20 years has seen amazing growth, both in terms of quality and quantity. However, we believe something different has to happen now. There needs to be some disruption in the system in order for us to take the next step and meet our people's demand for better services. The foundation is there, and so is the system. Capital Health looked at the current situation and wants to go with what we know the people of Abu Dhabi are looking for. It is not enough to provide the care. The next step is to bring the quality to an international level so customers feel like they are walking into a hospital anywhere in the US or Europe. Medicine is not just about what we measure as good quality. It is about the perception of our consumers. How do we deliver healthcare to a new generation that has constant access to social media? There is a generational shift in how they gauge good healthcare. How we leverage the fast growth of information technology will include AI in providing effective and efficient care.

JOSE LOPEZ Given Abu Dhabi's youthful and affluent demographic, the biggest health issues facing the population are typically preventable non-communicable diseases, also known as lifestyle diseases, which means we are seeing increases in the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which is a major cause for concern. This is especially true among the younger population. More than a third of children in the UAE (36%) are classified as overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. We are actively looking to address this through community outreach, patient education, and Emirate-wide campaigns. These result from sedentary behavior and unhealthy diets, which is why Healthpoint is focused on community outreach efforts to educate families and bring about sustainable change for the long term. In early 2018, we launched a powerful program in collaboration with our partner, Manchester City Football Club, to engage and educate parents and children on healthy living. It has been very successful.

What is your assessment of the overall sector in Abu Dhabi?

MAK In the health market today we see two different types of gaps in the system. The first is a non-traditional gap in which services exist, but are fragmented or not at the caliber expected by patients. This leads to mistrust and poor quality perceptions. Therefore, trust in the private sector is still a challenge we must overcome. In the last 25 years, there have been rapid growth and advancements, as 25 years ago there was no quality control or standardization, let alone licensing processing. So the private sector was relatively unregulated, which might have contributed to this perception. Today, however, we have one of the most robust systems of licensing, standardization, and health care regulation in the world. But, changing patients' perceptions takes time, which is why there is a need to deliver good, highly structured practices with honesty to allow Abu Dhabi and the UAE healthcare sector to compete with any system in the world. Second is the 'traditional gap,' which means a lack of primary services, such as rehabilitation medicine. To fill that, we are planning on opening the first hospital-based acute, sub-acute, and long-term rehabilitation care center inside the UAE whose standard of care, KPIs, treatment plan, protocols, and even employee job descriptions will be on par with the number one ranked rehabilitation hospital in the US, the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, formally known as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. This way we at Capital Health are certain we can meet both gaps in the area by providing the highest world-class level service. This is why we sought out this partnership. As far as preventative care is concerned, it should be more evenly divided between multiple sectors and programs, predominately between education and public health. Lifestyle diseases, which are a predominant cause of high mortality rates in our community, are a multi-faceted issue. First, regulations should come into play, and we have seen the government do exactly that, such as the taxation of tobacco and fast food restaurants. In addition to legislation, the public health sector has initiated programs in schools and community clinics, which fall under the umbrella of public awareness. However, with lifestyle modification, it takes a lot of energy and resources to change behavior patterns, and we must not forget the healthcare system was designed to treat illness and the sick. We not only need to have a paradigm shift in thinking and defining healthcare, we also need to financially reward facilities and providers for spending time and energy in preventative medicine.

JL One of the biggest areas of opportunity for the UAE is to strengthen the availability and quality of pediatric sub-specialty care. This is why we have established a visiting physicians program with the leading Washington DC-based Children's National Medical Center (CNMC), which brings its pediatric sub-specialists to Healthpoint to exchange knowledge and best practices and provide joint consultations to our patients. Other areas where we want to grow are in the hiring and development of local talent, and adopting new technologies to meet the demands of a digitally driven young population. Of course, our biggest focus is on striving to meet the goals of Abu Dhabi and the UAE's leadership to provide the very best standards of care at the heart of our local communities. To help achieve that, we are focused on the development of more centers of excellence that will provide integrated world-class healthcare services for citizens and residents from across the Emirates. Another area we would like to further develop is access to patients' medical records. We want to make sure they and the healthcare professionals treating them have as much information as possible about their care. I am concerned that some of the current high expenditure on healthcare in the region is due to repeated tests by multiple facilities because they do not have access to previous results. Not only is this extra expense and time for the system, but it can also expose patients to unnecessary radiation, medication, and procedures, as well as longer waiting times prior to diagnosis. To help address this issue, we have created a patient portal that gives them access to their entire history, including their visits, prescriptions, and scans, all online and accessible at any time. The potential downside to the use of technology is the loss of a personal approach in healthcare, so we strive to maintain that warmth, empathy, and personal connection, which is key to holistic care. On the practitioners' side, we have state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, including surgical procedures that use digital mapping of the body to help in the surgery. Our rehabilitation program involves interesting technologies, such as gravity-less running to exercise while protecting the joints.