Fortifying the healthcare sector in the Middle East & Africa region through the power of AI

Fortifying the healthcare sector in the Middle East & Africa region through the power of AI

By Inna Nadelwais, Executive Director, Mecomed

The healthcare sector is at the heart of the region’s growth and its development is imperative for ensuring healthier communities. In the Middle East and Africa, the sector faces several unique challenges, including a rapidly growing population, shortage of healthcare professionals, and a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. AI can play a crucial role in addressing these challenges and improving healthcare delivery. Generative AI is projected to grow faster in health care globally, than any other industry, with a compound annual growth rate of 85% through 2027. AI can transform the healthcare sector in the years to come.

Firstly, AI can assist in bridging the gap between the demand for healthcare services and the shortage of healthcare professionals. The value of the global telehealth market in the in the Middle East & Africa region is estimated to reach $460bn by 2030. AI-enabled telemedicine platforms enable remote consultations, connecting patients with specialized doctors. This technology can significantly improve access to healthcare, especially in remote parts of the region.

Secondly, AI can enhance disease surveillance and outbreak prediction. By analyzing vast amounts of data from wearables, including social media feeds, medical records, and environmental factors, AI algorithms can identify patterns and detect potential disease outbreaks at an early stage. This information can help healthcare authorities take proactive measures to prevent the spread of diseases and allocate resources more effectively. According to Market Data Forecast, the wearable medical devices market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is estimated to be worth USD 896.76 million by 2027, from USD 389.17 million in 2022.

Moreover, AI is fundamentally revolutionizing surgery, particularly in laparoscopic and robotic procedures. Intraoperative assistance from AI-based systems enables the guidance and execution of simple tasks, enhancing precision and safety. By mapping out surgical approaches and monitoring operations, AI can predict the next stages of an operation, offering surgeons foresight and additional oversight. International projects are leveraging AI’s capabilities to make specific surgeries like laparoscopic cholecystectomies safer by providing overlays and guidance to surgeons. AI’s role is further highlighted in robotic surgery, where it can execute tasks like tying a knot or closing a port site. However, most experts agree that AI’s role is to augment human abilities rather than replace them, emphasizing collaboration and integration rather than substitution.

Finally, AI can facilitate personalized medicine by analyzing a patient’s genetic information, medical history, and lifestyle data. This enables healthcare providers to develop tailored treatment plans and predict disease risks more accurately. Precision medicine holds immense potential for improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs in the MEA region.

The MEA region stands on the brink of an AI-driven healthcare revolution and is expected to spend $3 billion on AI by 2023. The integration of AI technologies has the potential to overcome the region’s unique healthcare challenges and improve patient outcomes. By leveraging AI for diagnostic imaging, telemedicine, disease surveillance, and personalized medicine, the MEA healthcare sector can enhance access, efficiency, and quality of care.

However, it is crucial to address the challenges associated with AI implementation, such as data privacy, regulatory frameworks, and ethical considerations. Governments, healthcare organizations, and technology stakeholders must collaborate to establish robust policies and guidelines to ensure the responsible and ethical deployment of AI in healthcare.

As the region continues to embrace AI, we, at Mecomed, are open to discussions with any stakeholders that are part of developing AI-related healthcare and data policies, for the advanced technologies contribute to a healthier population, reduced healthcare disparities, and improved overall well-being.