Ailing healthcare systems around the world are under the spotlight and the need for universal access to quality healthcare has never been greater as many factors continue to put pressure on the sector. These include ageing populations, clinical workforce challenges, rising utilisation stemming from a growing burden of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), and reimbursement-related challenges.
Reassuringly, the pandemic has forced governments to reconsider every aspect of their healthcare systems. For example, workforce size and shape, digital infrastructure, models of care focusing on primary-care pathways and digitally enabled interventions and disease surveillance, research, supply chain speed and resilience, access to care, data use, regulation, and service integration.
Ahmed Faiyaz, Strategy Partner and Head of Healthcare Advisory, KPMG Lower Gulf.
In the UAE, health spending grew from Dh45 billion in 2016 to Dh61.7 billion in 2020. Overall, healthcare spending is expected to account for 6 per cent of the country’s GDP by 2029. But changing demographics may be expected to put more pressures on the UAE healthcare industry.
Studies show that the over-60 population in the country is expected to grow from 4 per cent in 2018 to 8 per cent in 2030 for nationals, and from 1 per cent to 3 percent for expats. To meet this demand, UAE healthcare spending is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.9 per cent over 2016 – 2029 to reach Dh107 billion by 2029.
The KPMG whitepaper Champions of Change: How Governments can Lead Healthcare Transformation, published in cooperation with the World Government Summit 2022, examines the implications of the pandemic for the world’s health systems. It outlines the role of government action in the sector and the principles that should underpin it. This includes closer collaboration and cooperation with private-sector stakeholders including healthcare providers, health insurance companies, pharma and medtech companies, to help systems reimagine the role of patients, and deliver patient-centric, value-based services.
Here are five important trends that are set to drive major investments in healthcare in the future:
- 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. 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.
- 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.
In a post-pandemic world, wider digital adoption of AI will drive investments in R&D for vaccines and preventative medicines to tackle infectious diseases and viruses. Furthermore, we anticipate that better informed and engaged payers, including governments, healthcare providers, life sciences companies and patient groups – with real time diagnosis and access to health data – will demand a better health outcome and value, leading to healthier populations and more resilient economies.
Ahmed Faiyaz is the Strategy Partner and Head of Healthcare Advisory, KPMG Lower Gulf.