Healthcare Evolved

After attending the recent Digital Health Middle East 2020 conference, we decided to delve deeper into where the industry stands now and what is in for us in the future. Digitalisation is revolutionising the healthcare industry with new technologies being introduced for affordability and patient care so we get Harald Wolf, General Manager, Roche Diagnostics Middle East to give his insights.

Q: What is the value of in-vitro diagnostics and why is it a crucial component of clinical care?

IVD has long been considered the silent champion of healthcare, given that it influences over 60 percent of clinical decision-making while accounting for only 2 percent of total healthcare spending. It is a crucial component of clinical care, especially in determining patients’ healthcare needs and helping guide clinical decisions on which treatment or intervention is the most appropriate for them. IVD also saves a great deal of time and unnecessary treatment and plays a significant role in screening communicable diseases.

Put simply, diagnostics ultimately allows laboratories to effectively and efficiently provide healthcare professionals with the support that they need, empowering doctors to make the right decisions for their patients at the right time. In doing so, patients have better control over their own health and wellbeing. 

Q: What is the importance of the iCaRE platform? How does it help the UAE achieve its healthcare KPIs?

With cardiovascular disease (CVD) being one of the leading causes of death in the region, iCaRE is considered to be the Middle East’s pioneering symposium discussing cardiovascular disease management. Its relevance also stems from the fact that it brings together leading local, regional and international experts to share the latest advances, reference points and best practices in biomarker testing. 

Two-thirds of all deaths in the UAE are caused by cardiovascular disease, making it the leading cause of death in the country, hence the importance for the government in reversing its incidence. iCaRE helps the UAE in achieving this healthcare KPI, particularly reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease per 100,000 by 25 percent by 2021.

Q: What is different about this year’s iCaRE conference?

This year, iCaRE gathered leading experts who are considered as key global references in cardiology for the first time in the UAE and the region to present the most recent clinical practice guidelines for cardiovascular disease to be followed worldwide.

Their presence in the Middle East was significant, as it offered the opportunity for healthcare professionals, including cardiology specialists, laboratory physicians and emergency department doctors to learn more about the latest reference points and how to apply them. Furthermore, the third edition of iCaRE highlighted, for the very first time, case studies and best practices from the Middle East, with leading experts fromcentres of excellence across the region, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.

Q: What are the latest innovations in in-vitro diagnostics showcased at iCaRE?  

This year, we presented to the audience our latest IVD innovations in cardiology, which play a crucial role in clinical decision-making and in overcoming current challenges in the diagnoses of CVDs such as acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure. 

These innovations allow caregivers to provide the best quality of care by improving diagnoses, saving costs, efforts, and resources and therefore correctly identifying the appropriate life-saving treatments case-by-case for patients. This ultimately results in enhanced patient outcomes and quality of life and avoids unnecessary re-hospitalisations and medical procedures. 

Q: How is the digitalisation of healthcare impacting diagnostics?

Digitalisation is revolutionising the healthcare industry in the region, with new technologies being introduced to help patients lead longer and healthier lives, particularly through prevention. With the rise of non-communicable diseases such as CVD, local authorities have prioritised the digitalisation of healthcare services and the adoption of the latest breakthrough medicines and medical devices for the benefit of the entire local community. 

The latest digital health technologies assist healthcare professionals in providing more accurate diagnoses of patients’ diseases, as well as improved management of their conditions. These innovations are streamlining the healthcare professional’s work, optimising systems, reducing human error, lowering costs, and ultimately improving patient outcomes.  

Q: What are some of the challenges faced by the industry?

Although 2019 was another landmark year for the UAE’s healthcare sector and the market has seen tremendous growth, the rapid expansion poses some challenges. These include population growth, demographic shifts, and problematic lifestyle changes such as tobacco-use, all of which are resulting in the expansion of healthcare spending in order to ensure the delivery and access of quality healthcare for the UAE community. 

In parallel, the evolving diagnostics industry in the region is facing certain demands, particularly in ensuring clinical laboratory safety. Technicians are facing operational barriers when it comes to diagnostic tests and ensuring effective sample procurement, storage, and transportation. Furthermore, laboratory space needs to be reconfigured in order to meet the requirements of conducting molecular diagnostic tests to ensure efficient time management and avoid cross-contamination. Other demands include the education of laboratory technicians to operate advanced diagnostic technologies.

The UAE government has adopted a series of long-term initiatives stated in Vision 2021 to meet these demands and guide the sustainable growth of the sector.

Q: Can you please talk more about the importance of biomarkers in the accurate diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular diseases place a heavy burden on countries in the Middle East, largely due to the high prevalence of risk factors in the region, including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles. In the UAE, CVDs are the leading cause of death, contributing to 40 percent of total adult mortality. It is therefore critical for healthcare professionals in the region to remain updated on the latest diagnostic methods and tests to detect this non-communicable disease and help healthcare professionals in managing it. 

Advances in biomarkers are a critical topic of discussion, especially given that they are the key to effective risk assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, and disease management of CVD. In other words, biomarkers can help achieve more sensitive screening methods and can be a tool to better identify high-risk individuals and diagnose CVD conditions promptly and accurately. 

According to the ‘Life expectancy and main causes of mortality in UAE: A systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990 — 2016’ co-authored by Professor Samer Hamidi from the School of Health and Environmental Studies at Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University (HBMSU).

According to the ‘Life expectancy and main causes of mortality in UAE: A systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990 — 2016’ co-authored by Professor Samer Hamidi from the School of Health and Environmental Studies at Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University (HBMSU).

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