Healthcare experts and leaders gathered in Abu Dhabi for a two-day mHealth summit to share knowledge on the benefits of using mobile health applications in gamification, interoperability, and the fight against threats such as MERS.
The United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi hosted the first annual mHealth Summit Middle East Conference on May 28 and 29, 2014 at the Hilton Capital Grande. The two-day event brought together healthcare industry providers, executives, technology specialists, academics, and government and private sector representatives from across the UAE and from around the world to discuss and share insights on how wireless and mobile health is changing the healthcare sector in the country and the Middle East.
The region has been racked by a deadly outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which has killed 175 people in Saudi Arabia alone as of late this month, according to a BBC report. Since it was first identified in 2012, MERS has caused 200 deaths around the world and sickened 600 others.
“The debut of the mHealth Summit Middle East comes at a time when healthcare in the region is undergoing significant change and development across the board, and with issues such as the MERS virus making international headlines yet again, this is also a timely platform for healthcare specialists and thought leaders to demonstrate the potential for mHealth applications in addressing both serious chronic and contagious diseases,” H. Stephen Lieber, President & CEO, HIMSS Worldwide, event sponsor, said in a statement.
In this context of a current contagion, delegates of the mHealth meeting shared insights on how mHealth strategies could possibly help providers and authorities respond to a threat such as MERS.
Dr. Russell Gann, Director for Medical Informatics and Modernization for Vinnell Arabia at the Ministry of the National Guard, Health Affairs Directorate, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spoke during an afternoon session on the first day about strategies and systematic approaches to fight contagious diseases.
He said that ideally, mHealth solutions should be able to detect and respond to outbreaks within one meter of where it is reported. Now more than ever, quick response to health emergencies are expected by the public from health authorities, he said. Gann, who is also advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), then shared recommendations on how Middle East and GCC governments, hospitals and care providers need to do to fight and remain vigilant against MERS-like epidemics.
The event was kicked-off earlier in a welcome speech by Ali Mohamed Al Ali, Director of Information Technology, Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, UAE, on the importance of mHealth and key achievements made in Abu Dhabi. This was followed by the opening keynote speech entitled “How Creating Strong Partnerships Are Essential to Accelerate the Adoption of mHealth Across the GCC States”, by Michael Morgan-Curran, Director of mHealth, GSMA, United Kingdom.
The mHealth summit also featured a session with Ben Sawyer, co-founder of U.S.-based Games for Health, who talked about how gamification and game-based mHealth solutions could address public health issues such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic diseases that have demonstrated an upward trend in recent years in populations across the Middle East.
Other highlights during the first day of the conference included back-to-back sessions about mHealth and interoperability standards as practiced in the Middle East and comparisons elsewhere around the world.
A roundtable discussion entitled “Building Successful Models to Ensure mHealth and IT is Successful in Addressing Chronic Disease” saw industry leaders in and around the UAE and MENA engage the audience and each other by discussing case examples and new ideas.
The second day featured training and tutorial programs, an invitation-only forum for CIOs, an IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) event about UAE interoperability standards, and the Continua Connects Showcase.
HAAD (Health Authority - Abu Dhabi), the regulatory body of the healthcare industry in Abu Dhabi was the organizing partner of the said event, which was co-presented by healthcare industry events organizer HIMSS Middle East, with the help of partners Continua Health Alliance, Personal Connected Health Alliance and Games for Health.
The success of mHealth Summit Middle East in Abu Dhabi, and similar events like the recently held 1st Middle East Conference on Telemedicine and mHealth in Dubai, is indicative of the maturing market for digital health and mHealth in the UAE and the Middle East, and shows how the healthcare industry here is open to using new mobile and wireless technologies in combating deadly public health threats like MERS.