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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

UAE patients have the best access to healthcare in the Middle East, BMI says 

The Emirates is followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman while Iraq has the lowest score, the report shows

NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi. According to BMI, new technologies such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence will support the treatment and management of disease in the UAE. Victor Besa / The National 
NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi. According to BMI, new technologies such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence will support the treatment and management of disease in the UAE. Victor Besa / The National 

Patients in the UAE have the best access to healthcare in the Middle East as the country rolls out mandatory medical insurance and harnesses new technology for disease treatment.

The UAE earned the highest regional score on the Middle East Healthcare Access Index compiled by BMI Research, a unit of Fitch group, according to a report released on Friday. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman followed while Iraq trailed the list with the lowest score.

“Advanced healthcare systems and compulsory health insurance in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the continuous adoption of new technologies in the healthcare system will support the UAE’s position,” the report said.

“Innovation in clinical services and the use of new technologies in disease diagnosis and treatment will drive a more patient-centric healthcare system.”

Spending on health care in the Arabian Gulf is projected to grow at an average of 6.6 per cent annually to $104.6 billion (Dh384.2bn) in 2022 from an estimated $76.1bn in 2017, according to a March report by Alpen Capital.

An expanding population, high prevalence of non-communicable disease, rising cost of treatment and increasing availability of health insurance are the main factors driving growth.

The BMI report found that new technologies including 3D printing, artificial intelligence, advanced robotic surgeries and virtual reality will support disease management and treatment in the UAE.

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The Dubai Health Authority is prioritising the development of 3D printing for dental and orthopaedics and prosthetics devices, in line with the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy, BMI said.

“Benefits include faster turnaround times, more personalised design and functionality, and greater flexibility in terms of replacement,” the report said.

The DHA is also driving the use of AI and machine learning in the healthcare sector to improve clinical decisions, in line with the Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 and the UAE Strategy for AI.

Local radiologists will continue to assess AI potential while the Dubai Diabetes Centre, the emirate’s only dedicated multidisciplinary diabetes centre, is studying the use of AI to detect diabetic retinopathy, the report said.

Healthcare providers will adopt more robotic-assisted knee surgeries. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention will align its virtual reality rehabilitation plans to the UAE Strategy for AI.

In July 2018, the ministry announced plans to introduce VR rehabilitation for stroke patients, patients with

Parkinson’s syndrome, patients suffering from balance disorders, cerebral palsy patients and children with development disorders, the BMI report said.

VR rehabilitation technology uses virtual world simulation.

For stroke patients, for example, the patient moves at speed mounted on a motion platform with changing virtual environments that are displayed on the front screen to simulate daily activities.

The UAE and Oman are expected to record the highest growth rates in healthcare spending between 2017 and 2022 at 9.6 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively, according to Alpen Capital.

A fast-growing population, mandatory health insurance and above-average medical inflation rates will contribute to their higher levels of spending compared to Gulf peers.