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Innovation for public health starts with thinking like the private sector

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Digital health is largely led by private sector players because they have a monetary incentive to find demand-based solutions.

Technology is the cornerstone of modern day medicine but when it comes to public health, we’re still lagging behind. This is according to Professor Najeeb Al-Shorbaji, president of the Middle East and North Africa Association of Health Informatics, speaking at Arab Health 2021's Public Health conference.

“The problem with health tech is that we’re always a little behind other sectors. We borrow technological solutions from different places to apply the best of the best in health care,” he said. 

The Amman based professor lectures across the world on digital health and innovation, and has seen high tech solutions in practice in hospitals just miles away from other hospitals that sadly struggle to meet the most basic of patient needs. “The truth is that there’s a huge discrepancy between what is used with cities, let alone the region as a whole,” he said. “It’s hard to gauge how we are adapting digital solutions in the region because of the gap in adoption.”

Al-Shorbaji notes that technology as a sector of its own evolves much faster than legal, healthcare or even academia because it’s driven by the private sector. “Faster innovation and solution-finding means that other areas need to play catch-up to roll out healthcare applications. We cannot adopt technological solutions without the right legal structures in place. We cannot roll these out without the right training. It’s a challenge, but one that our sector can bridge with time and good leadership.”

This is why convergence is really important. Not every technological solution is suitable for every single country in the region. Neither is it appropriate for every individual. One size doesn’t fit all, he added. “Technology that is available or appropriate in one place may not be relevant elsewhere.” 

Al-Shorbaji went on to discuss the applications of technology such as mHealth, artificial intelligence, drones and robotics, and blockchain in healthcare. He concluded by speculating how the region can adapt these advancements with a patient-first approach.

TAGS: Investment
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