After the industrial age, the Middle East is going through the biggest transformation brought about by technological innovation. While still in the process, this transformation has put the Middle East on the map as the most evolving region on the globe. On top is UAE, leading the innovation in the Arab World, ranking 35th globally on the 2017 Global Innovation Index.

Although UAE began its journey on the road to a burgeoning future way back but the developmental spur came in October 2014, with the announcement of The National Innovation Strategy by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. On this occasion, Sheikh Mohammed talked about government’s vision for the future of the country, saying, “This innovation strategy is a national priority for our program of development and progress.  It is a primary tool to achieve Vision 2021 and an engine for the growth of distinctive skills and capabilities across the nation. We have always called for creativity in every field: this strategy is a concrete step to implement that vision.” He further added, “We want our public and private sectors to explore new horizons to develop our economy. Innovation is our only way to build a great history of the UAE… the future will be for those who adopt innovation.” [link]


Innovation in Healthcare Services

The Arab Health 2018 starts this week in Dubai, scheduled from 29th January to 1st February 2018, at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Being the largest gathering of healthcare and trade professionals in the MENA region, the 2018 edition of Arab health is anticipated to host over 4,200 exhibiting companies and 103,000 attendees from 150+ countries.

In this context, let us look at the developments pertaining to the medical field in the UAE. The innovation in this sector began with UAE being the first country to support the international pharmaceutical companies for registration of innovative drugs before FDA or EMEA approval. In addition, initiatives were taken for joint ventures between the local factories and the international pharmaceutical factories to produce the innovative medicine in the Emirates. To this end, there are many projects underway and many in the pipeline for plans to reach the goal to have 34 pharmaceutical factories by 2020. [link]

Since then the UAE medical sector in particular and the Middle East in general, has come a long way with many innovative practices and solutions being introduced and regularly implemented to improve medical outcomes and drive down costs as well. The use of modern technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) combined with advanced solutions like 360-degree videos, 3D printing, nanotechnology and wearable devices, is expected to help revolutionize the mainstream healthcare services.


During the Arab Health 2017, Rafael Grossman – a renowned surgeon, healthcare futurist and technology innovator – spoke about how these technologies are the way forward for healthcare, “Many of these technologies are already being used successfully and people are not going to want to fall behind in terms of adoption because patients are going to start demanding this.” [link]

Grossman was also the first surgeon to live-stream a clinical operation using Google Glass which further led to the technology being used for educational and telemedicine purposes. “The development of augmented reality and virtual reality healthcare applications is a natural extension of this work. For instance, using VR models and 360-degree videos, sophisticated medical procedures can be shared live with an almost limitless audience.” He went on to say, “You can imagine bringing any amount of surgeons and any amount of students to an operating room while an operation is being conducted by an expert,”


But the UAE government is set upon a much grander vision for the country as UAE became the first nation to have a Government Ministry dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, and H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama becoming the first state minister for AI in October 2017. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said during the announcement of the position, “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence,” [link]

The medical field is one of the sectors to largely benefit from this dedicated ministry. With the Arab Health 2018 starting in few days, we cannot wait to see what is more in store for healthcare sector this year.

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