July 23, 2024
Megatrends shaping healthcare in 2024

Change is inevitable in 2024, with the world reeling with geopolitical uncertainty and the effects of climate change. This year alone will see elections in 40 countries, representing almost 50 per cent of the global population. It will impact all major walks of life, including the financial and stock markets and the healthcare industry, which is emerging from the shadows of the pandemic.

In an interview, Reenita Das, Senior Vice President at Frost & Sullivan, shared: “I believe 2024 is going to be a year of transition and transformation because all of the geopolitical volatility and environmental concerns will have an impact on the stock markets, interest rates, and the cost of products and technology, and spending, which could create higher inflation and escalated cost of living, which will eventually affect healthcare.”

When asked about how the healthcare industry in the GCC is changing, she said that previously, many of these countries invested in brick-and-mortar healthcare systems. But today, these countries realise that the earlier classification of hospitals and healthcare is evolving.

Related: Building blocks for a future-ready healthcare

She explained: “Traditionally, the hospital was classified as public, private, or a hybrid. It was classified by size, such as small, medium, and large, and by purpose, whether it was a research hospital, general hospital, or speciality hospital. But today, the classification is being done very differently. In the future, hospitals are going to be classified either as a physical or a virtual hospital. It can be classified by purpose and be a centre of excellence, multi-speciality or chain hospital. Organisations will create care pathways around the patient and not around the hospital. So, the home is going to be the centre of care.”

SuppliedMegatrends shaping healthcare in 2024

Hospitals of the future will offer primary care in retail clinics, long-term skilled care at home, acute care in the hospital, and virtual care. “Virtual care will become 50 per cent of all healthcare in the future, including in the GCC countries. During the pandemic, it was about 80 to 90 per cent, and now it’s gone down to 30 per cent, but it will come up to about 50 per cent in the future,” she emphasised.

Virtual care will not be limited to just getting prescriptions or mental health appointments but will include creating a tele ICU at home and providing remote patient monitoring, among other services. Thanks to the advancements in the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), some of the technologies used in hospitals can now be used at home. For example, for a patient who has suffered a heart attack and is sent home after treatment, their vitals can be tracked through IoMT devices and that data will be sent back to the ICU centre, from where nurses can track the progress of the patient and provide instructions to caregivers at home. It can also alert in case of any red flags.

SuppliedFuture care pathway

Das added: “We are seeing serious patients slowly being moved into the home and being cared for from their comfort zone. It is less than 10 per cent at the moment. But in the US, there is an uptake in this trend, and almost 50 per cent of the hospitals will turn virtual over the next five years. I do believe that this trend is going to come to the GCC as well.

“Converting a hospital to a smart hospital and eventually to an intelligent one is where we see healthcare moving in the next five to seven years. There are several hospitals in Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE that are looking at this concept. They are creating use cases of different kinds of intelligent products that they can use, whether it’s robotics, optimising clinical processes, or infrastructure planning and asset management. Such a digitised network infrastructure of interconnected assets is going to make value-based healthcare a reality.”

Related: Digitalisation in healthcare, going paperless with barcodes and RFID

More trends to watch out for in the coming years

Rise of the intelligent assistants: An emerging area to keep an eye out for is the rise of intelligent assistants, which is going to pervade every aspect of business, home and life. There will be a shift from bots doing different things to intelligent assistants who can understand natural language, execute complex tasks, increase productivity, and redefine how we interact with technology. From a healthcare perspective, this will tremendously impact the education and training of clinicians and nurses down to the ICU level and create a more outcome and value-based healthcare system.

Focus on sustainability: COP28, which was recently held in Dubai, was instrumental in shedding light on what needs to be done to create a net zero emissions world and build resilience to climate change. The healthcare industry’s impact on the environment is massive, as reportedly almost 40 per cent of diseases are caused by environmental issues. Therefore, a lot of work will be done in this area, with healthcare organisations building a strategy around sustainable operations to protect lives and the environment.

Ethics and legalisation around AI: There is an increasing focus on ethics and legislation around AI. Today, there are about 800 measures around ethical concerns surrounding AI. However, there is no consensus on how it is going to work. Rather than every country building their own AI strategy, the need of the hour is a global strategy around AI that needs to be followed as a standard.

Growth of augmented reality: The development of 3D printing, whether it is organs, hip and knee joint replacement fibres or user-friendly wearable devices, will have a tremendous impact on the healthcare market. It will also influence education because it will enable a lot of interactive and engaging learning experiences.

Entering the era of wellness and prevention: Over the next five to 10 years, there is going to be an increased focus on wellness and prevention. More insurance companies need to start reviewing insurance plans and looking at them from a wellness and prevention point of view. For example, Vitamin D tests are not covered by many insurance carriers. However, a Vitamin D test is crucial for detecting heart disease, autoimmune issues, and sleep issues, which could lead to several chronic diseases in the future. Many populations, including the UAE, have a high ability to acquire Vitamin D deficiencies. In the UAE, 50 per cent of the population over 40 years of age suffers from some deficiency of Vitamin D. Hence, there is a need to incorporate these tests in the insurance system and work with a prevention mindset.

The other area related to prevention is screening. For instance, many insurance providers in the region don’t include mammograms or pap smears in their packages, which is crucial for detecting cervical cancer. However, having regular screenings helps to catch the disease much earlier. It saves more lives, and insurance carriers will have to start thinking about plans that incorporate this for their citizens.

Changing device ecosystem: The launch of software as a medical device (SaMD), implantable sensors, ingestible sensors, AR/VR, AI solutions, and real-time monitoring will change therapy, intervention, and management.

Precision medicine at the forefront: Precision medicine will not be limited to pharmaceuticals and drugs alone but will also extend to medical devices, supplements, wellness, and nutraceuticals. For instance, the UAE has put precision medicine as one of its core healthcare objectives. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is running several genome projects. Frost & Sullivan’s latest Growth Perspective explores the new growth opportunities identified in the precision health sector based on current economic and technology factors. Precision medicine will pave for a revolution in how healthcare is delivered, as the data collected will inform the right treatment path for patients.

Reenita Das

Reenita Das

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