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On healing the system: A new design for a new normal

Op-ed by Dr Maliha Hashmi, Executive Director & Deputy Sector Head Health and Well-Being and Biotech at NEOM.

We are living in challenging times. The new decade has thrust upon us the biggest international crisis since the Second World War, with seemingly no end in sight.

Such is the extent of disruption happening, that ordinary pundits and experts alike are questioning what our post-COVID 19 future will look like beyond simply rebuilding economies. How we work, how we get about and how we live could all see profound transformation.

It’s a lot to take in.

And yet, with crisis comes opportunity - a rare opportunity to build a better, fairer and more robust world.

We can start with the sector that is today firmly in the spotlight: healthcare.

While predicting the future is incredibly hard, we have envisioned a new approach to healthcare that we believe will work better for all. It’s an approach furthermore that is consistent with two rising developments we are currently witnessing in the pandemic - the importance of wellbeing and the rapid adoption of new person-centric technologies.

Wherever you go in the world, existing systems focus on healing and recovery and seem to have forgotten the basic premise that care begins at the cradle and ends at the grave. We need to move to a truly holistic integrated model that centers around a person’s needs and that of his loved ones. A move away from our archaic 'sick care' system to an actual 'health caring' system is an inevitable future where it is a system that is proactive than reactive.

NEOM is taking the revolutionary approach of empowering its citizens to take control of their health away from the hospitals and into their homes, workspaces and playgrounds. Health will become a new level of human consciousness, achieved by design and technology to build nudging devices and soft monitoring into the everyday environment.

This will include telemedicine; a Smart Mirror in the bathroom that gives you instant access to your vital signs and Dr NEOM: a virtually-enabled AI doctor you can consult anytime, anyplace and anywhere. At the same time, every citizen will have complete knowledge of and access to their genotypic and phenotypic data.

This advanced concept will remove the uncertainty many patients feel under current healthcare practice - except in NEOM, we won’t be patients. We’ll be individuals and families, and every one of us will have full knowledge of and control over our own health.

By lifting the veil of mystery from human wellness NEOM will empower us with the real-time knowledge of what is happening with our bodies and how we will overcome any issues. It’s a world-changing approach not just to physical health but to happiness: just imagine the joy and the peace you would feel when you get up, look in the mirror and it tells you that your vital signs are perfectly fine.

In order for NEOM to define this new era in health care we must remove the archaic barriers to the holistic approach. In traditional, outmoded systems we have public health in one silo; primary prevention in another; and mental health in yet another.  We’ll break through these silos to develop an ecosystem that treats mental, physical and emotional health in a unified manner, thus acknowledging the fundamental truth that a healthy body is dependent upon a healthy mind.

Within this system the hospital will be the last resort – its function replaced by local health centres staffed by specialists ranging from nutritionists physiotherapists and life coaches to psychologists offering fully integrated healthcare and, ideally, negating the need for clinical intervention.

Technology is a critical component. Human connections are as essential for mental health as they are for economic productivity, and tech will facilitate those. The current crisis has accelerated the use of such applications and we now need to explore this new normal to see how technology can be the catalyst for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Dr NEOM is one such innovation, but we’ll also have online counselling, therapy and mindfulness clinics as well as the by now familiar exercise classes.

Health (care) of the future is about mind, body and soul, and at NEOM we have an extraordinary, globally unprecedented opportunity to accelerate human progress by hitting the reset button and completely rethinking how the job should be done.

No health system is perfect, but we’ve travelled the world studying the way different nations approach the matter, identifying not only the elements of expertise from which NEOM can learn, but also those aspects which don’t work so well.

This insight has enabled us to model a revolutionary, end-to-end, integrated system built from best practice, high-performance, globally sourced components. It’s only when you have the opportunity to build a system from scratch that you can effect such radical change.

We’re going to be agile, adaptive innovative thinkers – a living laboratory built from the ground up and staffed the world’s finest talent to provide pre-eminent, data-driven health care.

This is the New Normal. This is the New Future. This is NEOM.


About the Author:

Dr Maliha HashmiDr. Maliha Hashmi is the Executive Director & Deputy Sector Head Health and Well-Being and Biotech at NEOM, where she also served as the Executive Director for all Strategic Partnerships. Dr. Hashmi also serves as a Leading Expert & Council Member for the Prestigious Global Future Council on Health & Healthcare at the World Economic Forum. Recently, Dr. Maliha Hashmi, was selected and recognized as one of the seven top most talented emerging Female Health Leaders of the MENA region. 

Dr. Maliha Hashmi has held Executive roles in various sectors and globally renowned organizations and is a well-known name in the region for health & wellbeing. Dr. Maliha Hashmi received her Doctorate and MastersDegrees from Harvard and MIT. Dr. Maliha Hashmi is listed as one of the top 20 women in the Nation in the United States of America for her achievements making it into the Who’s Who in America List.

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