On the Fast Track: Health IT in the Middle East

Standing in the middle of just one wing of a one-million-square-foot convention center as some of the 130,000 healthcare professionals in attendance walk by, you can’t help but be completely overwhelmed by the tremendous future ahead for healthcare in the Middle East.

It was my first year (and Spok’s fourth) exhibiting at Arab Health, the largest healthcare event in the Gulf region, at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center. Although it was new for me, my Spok colleagues and our partners confirmed that something was a little different this year. It was busier, but it wasn’t just that—the event has a growing bias toward technology. About half of the exhibitors were technology vendors, and health IT also took center stage at a number of special zones, like the MEDLAB Exhibition and the 3-D Printing Zone. Healthcare in the Middle East is undergoing a tremendous transformation, and technology is leading the charge.

This makes perfect sense when you consider the healthcare environment of the Middle East, which has a rapidly developing private health sector, particularly in Arab Health’s host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These private healthcare organizations have a lot of autonomy and frequently engage in “best of breed” technology buying. Their goal is not only to provide excellent patient care, but also to be seen as world-class healthcare destinations that will attract patients from across the Gulf region.

Many of the leaders of the Middle East’s healthcare transformation are expats who are developing their models on what’s happening in their home countries, typically the U.S. or the U.K. Most of the chief medical officers (CMOs) we spoke with said they were interested in upgrading communications at their Middle Eastern healthcare organizations from one-way to two-way communications workflows. We answered a lot of questions around mobility, clinical alerting middlewaresecure text messaging, and integrations with connectivity and ancillary systems. They definitely understand that it’s not just about adding technology for the sake of adding it—it’s not about just sending alerts, but simplifying the overall workflow and improving collaboration among doctors.

While it varies by country, there is often no real oversight when it comes to healthcare communications. However, these Middle Eastern healthcare organizations still want secure communications because again, they want to replicate what the best hospitals and health systems in the world are doing. “I’m looking for a texting app on steroids,” is what one CMO told us. The theme of Arab Health 2016 and of the broader healthcare environment of the Middle East really echo that request—better, faster, stronger. Here at Spok, we’re excited to do our part to help these organizations cross the finish line.