Posted on October 24, 2019

Technological enablement, digitization, and automation are profoundly changing industries today. The technological revolution the world is witnessing today, especially in the area of infrastructure and Artificial Intelligence (AI), will lead to a full transformation across all sectors, including healthcare.

Over the past few years, the growth of modern technology in the global healthcare sector was phenomenal. Additionally, the digital health market is expected to exceed $200 billion by 2020, compared to $80 billion in 2015[1]. Qatar, naturally, is part of this global trend. The TASMU Smart Qatar program is now working on developing the first and second waves of smart solutions that address national challenges across the five priority sectors: transportation, logistics, healthcare, environment, and sport.

"Qatar is moving fast towards digitization and the advanced technological enablement to improve people's lives," said Reem Mohamed Al Mansoori, Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Society Development at the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC). "Through TASMU, we seek to leverage the power of ITC to positively impact the life of Qatar's citizens and residents. Regarding healthcare, we seek to reduce obesity rates by 5% and smoking by 30% and improve timely access to medical attention. Achieving those objectives will have tangible good results for the national economy."

TASMU’s healthcare plan includes building an integrated, dynamic, and connected system to provide the highest standards of health services, ultimately reducing response times and the routine work of conventional healthcare. Here are some examples:

Comprehensive and integrated database

TASMU is working on building a unified database for Qatar's citizens and residents. Every patient will have a record showing details about them and their health, such as personal information, diseases, surgical operations, medication, treatment, diagnosis, laboratory test results, etc. The file can be accessed on the internet by the patient and by healthcare providers (with the patient's authorization). This will help review the medical history, update information at any time, and facilitate diagnosis. The patient will not need to manually transfer his medical file or explain his medical history to every new doctor.

The information in the database will not be limited to patients. Through an online platform, users can find information about doctors, their specializations, locations, working hours, the languages they speak, the method of payment, the insurance companies they deal with, the available appointments, etc. The platform also allows users to evaluate the service they receive and share their experiences for the benefit of others. It would also be possible to make appointments online. When this platform is linked to the unified database, the system can automatically suggest the best doctors for the case based on the patient's record.

The platform will facilitate the process of finding doctors, save time and effort, improve medical services, and raise patients' awareness of their rights and the level of service they should expect from health service providers.

Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced technology in healthcare

It is obvious that the proportion and the quality of internet-based services are growing. It will also likely increase further with the deployment of 5G networks, given the huge capabilities of these networks, especially in the areas of AI, IoT, and internet streaming. A 2017 survey by McKinsey and Company on healthcare services in the United States showed that 70% of the 4,250 people who participated in the survey said they prefer digital solutions on their phone over in-person solutions for many healthcare interactions.[2]

In line with Qatar's huge investment in a digital economy and infrastructure, TASMU’s plan for a better healthcare in Qatar includes remote medical consultations through video conversations. This service will be linked to the unified database so that the patient's medical record will be available for the doctor during the conversation. The doctor in this case will be able to diagnose the patient, offer consultation, update the patient's record, and prescribe treatment. These virtual consultations should reduce the pressure on the healthcare sector in Qatar, especially at a time when the country is seeing increasing population growth.

The digitization of the healthcare sector in Qatar also includes the provision of digital tools for self-diagnosis. These tools can be connected to smart devices like mobiles and smart watches, helping patients diagnose their health problems by entering the symptoms they feel, biodata, and personal information, linking the self-diagnosis tools to the patient's unified record. Using AI, the computer will analyse all this data to determine the disease, and at the same time offer a list of relevant doctors, with the possibility of remote consultation. This means a patient can complete his medical journey, from diagnosis to treatment, without leaving his place.

Innovation in this area has no limit. It will be possible to add further smart solutions for a better healthcare. These could include sensors and tools to monitors a patient’s case remotely, especially after surgeries, allowing doctors to respond to any new developments in the case. The tools could also include reminders of the times and doses of medicines, times of regular visits to the doctor, dates of laboratory tests, and emergency help requests. When all these services are integrated with people's data and analysed by supercomputers, it will  be possible to study the health situation of the population as a whole, improve people's access to affordable and high-quality medical services, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and, consequently, create a healthier society.

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