In the United Arab Emirates, changing demographics, aging populations and other trends are expected to drive healthcare spending in the coming years. By 2026, health spending is expected to reach around 6% of the country’s GDP. Ahmad Faiyaz, head of healthcare advisory at KPMG, outlines five developments behind the wave of investment.

Accelerated adoption of digital to improve patient outcomes

Digital technology enables patients to become active partners in their care and manage long-term conditions. Virtual consultations, telemedicine, digitally enabled and supported intensive care units (tele-ICUs), remote monitoring services, home laboratory diagnostics and online ordering of medicines are increasingly more adopted by healthcare providers.

AI supported by biometric computing increases diagnostic and treatment accuracy, leading to reduced errors, improved patient triage, redirected patient flows, and improved patient outcomes.

Going forward, regulators and healthcare professionals will now increasingly leverage AI, cognitive assistance, robotics and blockchain to increase the productivity and speed of care delivery. .

Growing resilient local supply chains

The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains, as difficulties in sourcing and delivering personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies and some vaccines have demonstrated local gaps and global interdependencies. This has led governments to recognize their role in building domestic productive capacity, through offshoring and investing to avoid future shocks.

In the UAE, the relocation of pharmaceutical manufacturing for Sinopharm and other vaccines is likely to drive future demand for locally produced pharmaceuticals in the GCC. Additionally, the development of the Life Sciences cluster in Abu Dhabi is expected to pave the way for a robust healthcare ecosystem.

Growth of traditional and complementary medicine

GCC’s traditional and complementary anti-aging and longevity market represents 67% of the total market, including traditional alternative/botanical medicine, body healing, mind healing, energy healing external and sensory healing. This market segment is now expected to grow at a faster rate than the global market at a CAGR of 24% over the next five years, exceeding global growth forecast of 22% CAGR over the same period.

A rapidly growing aging population in the UAE is expected to further increase demand for specialist services and wellness centers in the future, especially as patient behavior shifts towards preventive care models and adoption alternative healing therapies to manage health risks and chronic diseases.

Wider adoption of cybersecurity measures protects patient data

As medical devices proliferate and connect to platforms, quality assurance and security checks have often failed to meet proper standards. With more and more connected devices, manufacturers, suppliers, users and regulators are likely to invest more resources in ensuring consumer protection.

Increasingly, governments will play an important role in enforcing clear and commonly understood cybersecurity standards, while maintaining the security of vital national infrastructure and intellectual property against malicious actors.

Further reading: NHS patient data ‘worth £5billion’ for private companies.

Integration of healthcare and smart cities

Smart cities aim to improve the lives of citizens through connected technology. In the UAE, the government’s Smart City strategy is improving mobility, healthcare, safety and social connectivity. Going forward, smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) have enormous potential to bring healthcare and patient empowerment to homes, workplaces and leisure spaces.

More emphasis will be placed on integrating various touchpoints of everyday life to optimize the way a city is designed and operated, much like a new project that combines urban infrastructure with technology to improve people’s lives and how they interact with their environment.

About the Author: Ahmed Faiyaz has two decades of management consulting experience and is focused on expanding KPMG’s footprint in the Lower Gulf healthcare sector.