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Across the globe, artificial intelligence (AI) has been steadily expanding its foothold in healthcare driven by a rise in big data use in the industry, an increasing interest in genetics, an emergence of personalized medicine, and the creation of real-time health monitoring systems. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on private and public healthcare organizations to improve their speed of response to healthcare challenges through an accelerated leverage of AI, among other disruptive technologies. From automating daily administrative tasks through robotic process automation (RPA) to predicting patient disease patterns through machine learning and neural networks, AI is increasingly playing a key role in shaping the future of the healthcare industry overall with several benefits to unlock, if implemented properly.
While COVID-19 continues to unfold across the globe, the pandemic has catalyzed numerous AI-enabled healthcare development activities. For instance, after scientists decoded the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2—the virus causing COVID-19—and publicly posted the results, firms began using AI-enabled methods to rapidly develop potential vaccines, some of which are already proceeding to clinical trials. By comparison, traditional non-AI drug development processes take many months, if not years, to proceed to human clinical trials.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), prominent health organizations are no strangers to the benefits of AI and have already expressed a growing interest in integrating AI into their operating model. Taking a closer look at their strategies and objectives shows that more than 50% of their strategic initiatives are centered around AI and data analytics solutions.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) aim to fully incorporate AI into medical services across providers and promote innovation across the healthcare industry. The DHA has already signed memorandums of understanding with international companies to introduce inventive healthcare innovations in AI. This includes the implementation of virtual health through an app that uses AI technology to provide remote general practitioner consultations round-the-clock and free-to-use AI pods across Dubai that will do quick health scans for the public and generate immediate results. In Abu Dhabi, the Department of Health (DoH) pioneered the development of an AI policy to regulate future usages of the technology in the healthcare sector and launched an AI laboratory that aims to develop groundbreaking solutions in wellness and prevention, chronic disease management, clinical care, and regulatory management.
Just recently, Saudi Arabia approved an AI strategy that is expected to contribute $133 billion in U.S. dollars to Saudi’s gross domestic product by 2030. In line with this focus, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia devised its Digital Health Strategy as part of Vision 2030 that promotes reinvention across the Kingdom’s digital ecosystem and enables new models of care through connectivity and new technologies, with AI as a key pillar. In addition, the General Directorate for Research and Studies (GDRS) is actively promoting AI-related research projects as part of its Health System Research Fund Program 2020–2023.
In Qatar, Qatar University is already relying on AI capabilities in its research efforts to find a cure for COVID-19 infections. Moreover, Qatar is hosting the AI in Healthcare Qatar 2020 Forum that aims to connect global and local industry leaders and share experiences on how AI is transforming the health sector globally and position the country as a regional center of excellence for health AI.
Building on these regional trends, GCC health players have an opportunity to achieve greater AI maturity as an enabler to predict and diagnose diseases early, inform clinical decision making for more effective treatments and therapies, and complement clinical skills and knowledge of the local workforce. Yet, achieving favorable returns of investment from AI initiatives requires careful planning and an experimental mindset that focuses on value extraction along the adoption journey.
In an effort to tackle some of these challenges, Booz Allen has developed five key recommendations (Exhibit 1) that GCC health organizations can consider to better their chances of succeeding in their AI journey.
Although there are many factors that contribute to success, these considerations can be key as GCC health organizations aim to improve their odds in their AI journey and strive to better harness the benefits of this capability while side-stepping its potential caveats.