The leadership of Qatar has long understood that a healthy nation is a productive nation. The Human Development pillar of the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030 emphasises how an effective healthcare system is critical to Qatar’s success because it directly impacts social productivity and economic competitiveness. In the last few months alone we have seen the country achieve a number of major milestones in healthcare. With the support of the Ministry of Public Health, Qatar became the first country in the world in December last year to utilise Clinical Information System across its entire public health sector, connecting the entire system through shared patient information. Sidra Medicine, one of the world’s most technologically advanced hospitals and one of our customers, opened the doors to inpatients in January 2018.
As with any sector in any economy, there are certain challenges that must be overcome to achieve optimal results. Globally, healthcare is seeing a shift in the way it operates. Across the sector, there is a major focus on patients, prevention and efficient management of chronic illnesses, all with the aim of minimising costs and increasing the benefits delivered to patients.
One barrier to success that research has identified is non-adherence to medical treatments whereby patients do not follow their prescribed regime. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that adherence for long-term therapies for chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and cancer in developed countries is only around 50% — and even lower in developing countries. When patients with chronic illnesses don’t adhere to their prescribed treatment, they’re reducing their chances of recovery and adding to the cost of care.
In Qatar, this problem particularly affects diabetes patients. A 2017 study conducted by the College of Pharmacy at Qatar University and the Leicester School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University showed that 73% of diabetes patients were not adhering to their medication. While the issue is concerning at a global level, as the healthcare sector in Qatar continues to develop it can address the problem from an early stage.
Technology, which continues to have a significant impact on our lives, could very well be the answer. Through the Internet of Things’ (IoT) remote monitoring capabilities for example, healthcare providers can easily access patient data and deliver high-quality care to a larger number of patients, all the while reducing hospitalization costs.
How can that apply to non-adherence? Innovative solutions such as smart packaging can help address the issue by indicating when medication bottles have been opened and used, thus allowing patients and doctors to keep track of their intake. Sensors in inhalers or syringes can inform patient behaviour by tracking dosage. IoT-enabled pills can show when medication is taken and then provide data on its effectiveness. These solutions give patients more independence to take charge of their own health and give clinicians access to data that will enable them to make more effective diagnoses.
At Vodafone, we have been supporting healthcare providers with technologically advanced solutions for several years. Through our global expertise and international network we provide IoT solutions that deliver secure and reliable connectivity, as well as storage platforms that can handle data from a vast number of devices. Our work with Lively Home by GreatCall provides a system of remote sensors that enables professional carers and families to monitor the movement patterns of their patients and older relatives. Together we have created a central hub that offers innovative solutions that can track customers’ pill intake and share data with care-takers. Mind.pax, a start-up that tackles health issues by monitoring sleep patterns, has benefited from our Global IoT SIM to enable wristband trackers to transmit data on a daily basis to their central database. This information is then analysed, with alerts sent to patients or doctors as required.
As the IoT partner of choice for cities, businesses and governments around the world, Vodafone is ideally placed to use its international experience to support the development of Qatar’s healthcare system. We are committed to continuously providing the country with technological breakthroughs aimed at supporting Qatar’s ambitious vision for building a diversified, knowledge-based economy and ensuring a high-quality of life for its people. The future of healthcare in Qatar is exciting, and we stand ready to play our part.