Since institutionalization of finest customer service practices has been one of the prime undertakings in the UAE, mHealth services have also been high on the agenda lately. Driven by mobile technology (ICT), mHealth services target improvement of citizens’ health by facilitating easy contact, not to mention the remote management of the patients through mobiles is expected to become a billion dollar industry of the future across the globe. As the world is at the brink of the mHealth revolution; healthcare professionals, government regulators and telecommunication controllers have also been working around mobile healthcare in Middle East where the basic framework entails technology and integration of systems (telcos and health facilities).
What is the mHealth Program?
A rise in lifestyle diseases and scarcity of resources and capacity are subjects of concern in the region’s healthcare system. Nevertheless, with mobile health technology, medical professionals can manage countless patients now. Medics can examine patients in real-time and also exchange the statistical information with them. The aim of this up-gradation is to ease the access to medical assistance, elevate healthcare sector to international standards and ensure the highest level of well-being of citizens.
According to Sheikh Mohammed’s directives, healthcare facilities should work towards better medical services through mobile healthcare services program with special focus on remote areas and senior citizens. “I want to deliver healthcare services to people wherever they are, and I do not want any citizen to suffer in this aspect as it is the government’s duty to reach people at any time and in any place and provide medical treatment with the same quality we provide other government services,” he said. “The UAE Government utilises its full capacity to support creative and applicable initiatives that shall contribute to achieving the community’s health and happiness and assuring quality healthcare services for citizens, in the fastest way possible.”
Telcos Active Participation in mHealth Program
Whether it’s through apps, real-time monitoring or SMS, telcos in the Middle East have been expediting the cellular connectivity and interactivity between the doctors and the patients. Earlier this year, UAE’s Ministry of Health signed an agreement with telecom giants Etisalat and du which was particularly directed towards supporting the patients with diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The agreement is in line with Vision 2021 which is all about easing access to medical assistance and giving rise to healthy lifestyle in the Emirates. Patients would be able to acquire information on obesity, cancer and have themselves remotely diagnosed and examined along with having access to tele-health and video conferencing. There would also be focus towards developing feasible and sustainable mobile health products and services. Du has also launched Wellness app and MD24/7 app, the latter allows patients to speak to doctors in real-time.
The rise in health problems can only be dealt with using the ubiquity and speed that ICT has to offer. Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister for Health said, “The country is facing a major public health challenge with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This partnership represents our commitment to fight these diseases by delivering high quality mobile health services to all Emiratis and expats regardless of location. Mobile health technology is at the heart of our strategy to deliver medical services that tackle the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.”
The active collaboration between telcos and the Ministry of Health (UAE) is expected to salvage the situation as far as medical problems are concerned. Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA said, “We established the mHealth Innovation Group and the mDiabetes Campaign in Dubai last year to discuss how mobile technology can play an active role in healthcare. This current level of engagement between Ministry of Health and mobile operators is a tribute to their commitment to improving health in the region.”
The First Middle East Conference on Telemedecine and mHealth:
The upcoming event, Middle East Conference on Telemedicine and mHealth, taking place on April 15th, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, would see international experts, decision makers and healthcare leaders gather to discuss the role of mobile in improving the healthcare system and practices.
More than 20 experts from USA, Canada, Switzerland, KSA, India, Pakistan, South Africa and some other countries are expected at the event. Standards & Guidelines for Telemedicine and mHealth; Policy, legal, ethical and security issues around Telemedicine; National eHealth Strategy; Hub & Spoke Teleconsultation models for Gulf countries; Best practices and models in TeleRadiology, TelePathology, TeleCardiology, TeleICU; Sustainable business models in Telemedicine; TeleHomeCare; Behavior remodeling & wellness through mHealth ; Medical Call Centers; Patient Health Records; eLearning / eCME; Health Financing through technology would be the subjects of discussion. Experts would not only share best practices prevailing in the field but would also reflect over the prospective advantages that such an innovation can bring to the medical field. The crux, however, is to enhance customer outreach.
Future Trends In Global mHealth Revolution
Evolution of smartphones, tablets, apps, telecommunications and wireless coverage is all that’s going to drive mHealth services. The penetration of mobiles and smartphones is constantly on the rise in developing markets. Yet, in the UAE, “Volume sales of smartphones are expected to reach almost 5.5 million units by 2017” according to a report by Euromonitor. Therefore, this indicates all the more reason for mHealth services to thrive.
As for the global mHealth market, it will reach $21.5 billion by 2018 says the BCC research report. Dr. C. L. Barton, a BCC healthcare analyst, said, “MHealth solutions can help to rapidly improve healthcare access in developing countries and maintain quality healthcare services in the face of increased patient burden in the developed countries.”
How mHealth would Impact Clinical Customer Service
Mobile technology has been both revolutionary and transformational. mHealth holds immense potential for enhancing clinical customer service. As mentioned earlier, the rise in lifestyle diseases and the increasing number of resources required, calls for a solution that allows easy and speedy access, irrespective of location of the patients in question. Thus, making full use of resources and innovation that this age has to offer. With mHealth and Telemedicine, patients would be able to consult experts in real-time with just a few keystrokes, as in the end good customer service is all about availability, undisruptive service and effective communication which brings ultimate customer satisfaction.