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How health tech will “revolutionise healthcare” in the Middle East & Africa

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Digital health & health tech is said to change the landscape of psychological care, but what exactly should this mean, both patients and for professionals? Jalil Allabadi, CEO of Altibbi shared is insights with Health Tech World…

It is not unusual to see a great deal of coverage in the media about the digital revolution that is changing our lives.  From fintech to edtech, the technology revolution is leaving no industry untouched, and healthcare is no exception in what is now branded as health tech.  

This is the digitalisation of healthcare processes so diagnoses and treatments will become far quicker and often in real time, putting healthcare at the touch of a button for people across the globe. 

COVID-19 and the rise of digital “acceleration”

The pandemic helped accelerate these disruptive healthcare systems globally and put renewed focus on innovations that facilitated rapid diagnosis and equal access to healthcare. 

It also pushed forward technological adoption as a means of supporting healthcare continuity – from the rise of digital consultations to applications such as artificial intelligence (AI) transforming the way hospital beds are filled, and diseases diagnosed.  

But the arrival of COVID-19 also had a significant impact on the psychological wellbeing of people across the world. 

The mental state of the world

Close to 40 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 in the Middle East struggled with their mental health last year, according to global study ‘The Mental State of the World’, which claimed the pandemic had a significant role to play, with its repeated lockdowns and long spells of enforced isolation.

Logically, then, another area of healthcare that is seeing rapid digitalised development is psychological care. Digital tools are now helping to improve access to information online on mental health, with people increasingly looking to the internet for medical advice and treatment options to improve psychology wellbeing.

Growth of online consultations, MEA & globally

Thanks to the switch to digitalisation, away from physical forms and in-person organisation, we are also seeing a large number of patients move towards online psychological consultations.

Whether it is the appeal of speaking to a medical expert from the comfort of your own home, or whether you live in a remote, rural community with limited access to psychological support services, online consultations are improving access to healthcare, including mental health support, for millions across the region.

Altibbi has seen its online consultations grow by 13% in 2021, thanks to new processes introduced through digitalisation.

 These include consultations identifying and treating depression (increased 70%), anxiety (up 36%), nightmares (up 29%) or psychological and behavioural factors attached to other diseases or disorders (up 81%). 

Knowing your customers is an important part of being able to help design customer services to meet demand and we found digitalisation ensured it could quickly gather helpful data so it is more responsive.

Analysing our user data can help determine where to offer psychological healthcare support and how to reach them – explaining the benefits of new approaches to diagnosis, new services and treatments. 

AI technology uses this data to provide a more personalised and affordable care at a faster pace with lower chances of error.

Health tech sector as “come of age”

And the change is going to be big; the healthcare sector across just the GCC has come of age. According to a KPMG report, healthcare-related expenditure in the Gulf grew from $60bn in 2013 to $76bn in 2019 and is expected to scale to $89bn by 2022. Now technology is accelerating that growth further. 

With growing demand for digital healthcare services coming from an increasingly tech-savvy young customer base, it is perhaps unsurprising that over 45% of our users are between the ages of 20 and 29. 

Concurrently, there is a growing elderly population who, while perhaps less digitally nimble, can still benefit from the efficiency gains that digitalisation can bring – while ensuring the customer experience can be less stressful and more convenient – especially important for patients seeking psychological support.

Health tech is going to revolutionise healthcare globally and in MEA, empowering patients by transforming the old monolithic public services into smart care for individuals – and patients with psychological conditions will be among the first to benefit.

Jalil Allabadi – 2022

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