Connected health refers to a new era of healthcare where technology and medicine intersect, paving the way for healthcare professionals and providers to manage patients and promote wellness by interconnecting medical devices and sharing patient data easily. By making the data more widely accessible, clinicians are presented with a well-informed holistic overview of a patient’s status which helps in delivering better care. Internet of things, or better known within healthcare as Medical IoT (MIoT), has prompted newly established verticals—in addition to AI and ML—such as remote healthcare monitoring and telemedicine consultations that utilize the connectivity between apps, sensors, and devices to drastically enhance care delivery and improve patient outcomes.
With connected health, healthcare becomes accessible from anywhere. Clinicians can globally engage with each other to manage complex cases, which means that patients in remote areas can access top clinicians and get the best possible access to care. Also, the use of technology and connected care increases the possibility of faster patient discharge compared to the traditional monitoring methods. This allows hospitals to meet the demands of the ever-increasing volume of surgeries resulting from the major backlog witnessed in surgical procedures due to COVID-19.
Companies, such as Teladoc and Livongo, have penetrated the market over the last few years and forever changed the way healthcare has viewed diseases such as diabetes. Livongo is making great strides towards supporting efforts to prevent diabetes, and Teladoc, a telemedicine company, has massively grown in the last couple of years due to COVID-19. Their growth and use cases will continue to be seen even after the pandemic subsides. The world has now entered a new era where medicine will be practiced differently. The benefits of doing virtual consultations, for example, can ease the burden on healthcare systems globally and allow patients to get fast access to enhanced care.
As much as data digitization can offer a ton of benefits, as much as it can present numerous challenges. Ensuring patient privacy and confidentiality has become more difficult with the vulnerabilities that come with the new technology. Patient data can be exposed to cybercriminals, which can cause a handful of issues including data leakage. This can be easily solved with the implementation of a cyber security system to help protect doctor-patient confidentiality.
On the other hand, some healthcare systems around the world have failed in catching up with the pace of technology development, and as a result, don’t have the proper infrastructure to be able to incorporate new technologies into their systems. Additionally, healthcare professionals have become accustomed to practicing medicine in certain ways, which means that introducing new methods of patient management can sometimes be faced with resistance. COVID-19 may eliminate or reduce that resistance as the need for technology becomes more and more apparent.
We can start expecting to see more connected health and medical technologies incorporating MIoT in our lives in the next 5 years. The aggregation of a ton of patient data and information will help us reach a later point in which preventative medicine can have a major impact on improving patients’ lives. By providing clinicians with more data about patients, connected health helps with the better understanding of certain diseases and allows for the prevention of certain medical conditions, for example, or the further deterioration of a patient.
Hopefully, less death will be seen due to cases that could have been saved if we had access to more and stronger patient information. This can increase the average life expectancy. With more wellness solutions out there, individuals can look out for their personal health. This results in a healthier global population that in turn reduces the strain on healthcare systems and shifts much needed resources where they are needed the most.
"Governments, innovators, healthcare providers, investors, and regulators are all united on one common goal: to improve patient outcomes and provide the best possible level of care for individuals in the region."
With the major digital transformation being witnessed in KSA and the MENA region overall in the last few years, the population of the region is evidently becoming healthier and stronger. Healthcare is being looked at with a completely different lens now. This lens incorporates a futuristic view and a long-term vision that will allow future generations to live prosperous lives with a reduction in chronic conditions that have been prominent in this region for a long time. Governments, innovators, healthcare providers, investors, and regulators are all united on one common goal: to improve patient outcomes and provide the best possible level of care for individuals in the region.
Countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have managed the situation around COVID-19 in a way that sets an example on how healthcare can be managed and shows that now they are more prepared than ever for any future pandemic or global healthcare crisis. Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, for example, is focused on providing better care opportunities and establishing venture capital funds to invest in connected healthcare technologies that have proven to better serve people globally and in the region.
A connected society for better health
Advice for entrepreneurs or connected health innovators in the MENA region would be to listen to user needs. Sit at the same table and join hands with clinicians, regulators, and government officials, while constantly focusing on the evolving needs of the society to ensure that issues are being looked at from the right angle.