Healthcare: Are We Fit for the Future?

Modern medicine has made enormous strides against the major killers of the past such as smallpox, tuberculosis and diphtheria. 

However, the health challenges Oman faces today come from chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), cancer, diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disorders. It is estimated that NCDs claim 40 million lives every year, the equivalent to 70% of all deaths globally.

To uncover the factors influencing the development of the sultanate’s healthcare system, Ithraa, Oman’s investment promotion and export development agency, has organized ‘Healthcare: Fit for the Future’, the latest edition of its Inside Stories series, scheduled for 7:00pm, Tuesday 24 October at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Training Centre in Al Hail North to explore how the nation will navigate the health challenges of the 21st  century.

 “Although there has been tremendous progress on medical diagnosis and treatments, healthcare delivery has not structurally changed very much. It is still largely bricks and mortar where people who are sick or acutely ill come to be seen and treated by medically trained staff,” commented Mr. Taleb Al Makhmari, Ithraa’s Marketing & Media Director General and organizer of the Inside Stories initiative.

 

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However, over the next 10 to 20 years many of Oman’s healthcare professionals fully expect the bricks and mortar model to change. Doctors will soon use AI to diagnose cancer, medical students will use Oculus Rift to explore the workings of the heart and Omani road traffic accident burn victims will be virtually transported to a snow-coated mountaintop for pain therapy. Patients will compare the results of different hospitals or individual doctors. They will not be required to visit the local clinic for their monthly electrocardiogram but instead wear a smart Band-Aid patch that sends the results in real time to their doctor.

 

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“Hospitals around the world already discharge patients with an app, a set of WiFi connected scales and a blood pressure cuff, so they can better manage their medications and diet. Essentially, we will see a 24/7 connection between patients and those monitoring them. This might sound like science fiction but it is the future of Omani healthcare,” explained Ithraa’s Director General.

On the economic front, Oman needs a healthy, able and available workforce to compete in the global economy - a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. According to an Institute of Medicine report the indirect costs associated with preventable chronic diseases - costs related to worker productivity as well as the resulting fiscal drag on the US economic output - may exceed US$1 trillion per year. In the UK, the Confederation of British Industry estimates that every year sickness absence costs the economy approximately US$22 billion.

Omani businesses need to be resilient, agile and resourceful, with employees who are healthy in mind and body if they are to meet the economic demands required to ensure the sultanate thrives and prospers in today’s competitive global marketplace.

“By getting workplace health right, Omani employers can make a significant contribution, helping to reduce levels of disease and illness in the sultanate and deliver benefits for everyone,” pointed out Al Makhmari.

Panelists for the 24 October Inside Stories session include: Dr. Abdullah Al Harthy, trauma surgeon at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital; Dr. Asif Gani, Regional Director, Oman Burjeel Hospital & Medical Centres; Raif Al Harthy, CEO, Wareed and Dr. Mazen Al Khabouri, Director Genera Private Health Establishments, Ministry of Health. The evening event will be moderated by Ithraa’s Mrs. Nisreen Ahmed Jafar.

Many in Oman’s healthcare sector believe that it is the Internet of Things, constant connectivity, ever-cheaper hardware, big data, smartphones and machine learning – especially when meshed together that will reshape and reinvent Oman’s healthcare system.

“The future is coming faster than people may think.  Soon we will not wait for disease to happen. We will care for ourselves before we get ill,” concluded Al Makmari.

Inside Stories is open to the public and free-of-charge to attend. The initiative is generously supported by Al Mouj Muscat and the Public Authority for Civil Aviation. To register for the 24 October ‘Healthcare: Fit for the Future’ log on to events.ithraa.om

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