Five trends driving investments in UAE’s healthcare sector

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In the UAE, changing demographics, ageing populations and other trends are expected to drive healthcare spending is in the coming years. By 2026, healthcare spending is forecast to reach around 6 per cent of the country’s GDP. Ahmad Faiyaz, Head of Healthcare Advisory at KPMG, outlines five developments driving the investment wave.

Accelerated digital adoption to improve patient outcome

Digital technology is allowing patients to become active partners in their care and to manage long-term conditions. Virtual consultations, telemedicine, digitally enabled and supported intensive care units (tele-ICUs), remote monitoring services, lab diagnostics at home and online ordering of medicines are being increasingly adopted by healthcare providers.

AI supported by biometric computing is increasing the precision in diagnosis and treatment, leading to reduced errors, better patient triage and redirecting of patient flows and improving patient outcomes.

Ahmad Faiyaz, Head of Healthcare Advisory, KPM

Going forward, regulators and healthcare professionals will now increasingly leverage AI, cognitive assistance, robotics and blockchain to augment productivity and the speed-to-delivery of care.

Growth of resilient, local supply chains

The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains as difficulties in sourcing and supplying personal protection equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and some vaccines demonstrated local gaps and global interdependencies. This has led governments to recognise their role in boosting domestic production capacity, through onshoring and investment to avoid future shocks.

In the UAE, onshoring of pharma manufacturing for Sinopharm and other vaccines will likely drive future demand for locally produced pharmaceuticals in the GCC. Furthermore, the development of the Life Sciences cluster in Abu Dhabi should pave the way for a robust healthcare ecosystem.

Growth of traditional and complementary medicine

The GCC’s traditional and complementary market for anti-ageing and longevity account for 67 per cent of the total market, including traditional alternative medicines/botanicals, body healing, mind healing, external energy healing and sensory healing. This market segment is now expected to grow at a faster rate than the global market, at 24 per cent CAGR over the next five years, surpassing the global growth forecast of 22 per cent CAGR over the same period.

A fast-growing ageing population in the UAE is expected to further push up demand for specialised services and wellness centres in the future, especially as patient behaviour changes towards preventative care models and adoption of alternative healing therapies to manage healthcare risks and chronic conditions.

Wider adoption of cybersecurity measures safeguard patient data

As medical devices proliferate and connect with platforms, quality assurance and security controls have often failed to meet appropriate standards. With more and more connected devices, manufacturers, providers, users, and regulators will likely invest more resources to ensure that consumers are protected.

Increasingly, governments will play an important role in enforcing clear and commonly understood cyber-security standards, while maintaining the security of vital national infrastructure and intellectual property against malicious actors.

Further reading: NHS patient data ‘worth £5 billion’ to private companies.

Integration of healthcare and smart cities

Smart cities aim to improve citizens’ lives through connected technology. In the UAE, the government’s Smart City strategy is enhancing mobility, healthcare, safety and social connectedness. Looking ahead, there is tremendous potential for smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring healthcare and patient empowerment into the home, workplace, and leisure spaces.

There will be greater focus on integrating various touchpoints of daily life to optimise the way a city is designed and works, much like a new project that marries urban infrastructure with technology to improve people’s lives and how they interact with their environment.

About the author: Ahmed Faiyaz has two decades of experience in management consulting, and focuses on expanding KPMG’s footprint in the healthcare industry across the Lower Gulf.