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Digital drugs delivery – the next frontier in healthcare

Tech innovations in pharmaceuticals delivery are part of the wider trend towards digitising medical services

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Abu Dhabi Department of Health has a drone delivery system for medical supplies

There is a revolution taking place in healthcare, fuelled by digitalisation and a departure from physical forms and in-person processes.

When the revolution is realised, you will look back and wonder how everything changed so quickly.

The pandemic disrupted healthcare systems globally and put renewed focus on innovations that facilitated rapid diagnosis and equal access to services.

The global health crisis accelerated technological adoption as a means of supporting healthcare continuity – from the rise of digital consultations to artificial intelligence applications transforming the way hospital beds are filled, and diseases diagnosed.

Among these improvements, we are now seeing innovations in pharmaceutical drug delivery as part of the wider technology trends towards digitising the whole spectrum of medical services.

Using the internet, but primarily smartphones, will change the way patients view accessing consultations and advice – speeding up processes and improving healthcare services accessibility.

Likewise, the benefits that will come from innovations such as drone pharmaceutical deliveries – whether to pharmacies, surgeries or clinics – will be transformative.

As an example, last year the Abu Dhabi Department of Health announced that it will create a drone delivery system to be used to deliver medical supplies – medicine, blood units, vaccines and samples – between laboratories, pharmacies and blood banks across the city. 

Benefits will include a seamless online experience, quicker and predictable delivery times, faster responses in emergencies – all helping to improve patient and customer experience.

Direct-to-patient pharmacy delivery is another technology-enabled innovation set to transform patient experience and access. But getting medicines where they need to be more efficiently isn’t just about convenience. 

Patient compliance with drug regimens will also improve through ease of purchasing online, eliminating the risks of patients forgetting to go to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions – which many of us may have been guilty of – and promote greater adherence to prescriptions.

The GCC healthcare sector has come of age. According to a KPMG report, healthcare-related expenditure in the Gulf grew from $60 billion in 2013 to $76 billion in 2019 and is expected to scale to $89 billion by 2022. Now technology is accelerating that growth further.

There are three factors in play: rising demand coming from an increasingly tech-savvy young customer base, the growing elderly population, and an increase in lifestyle-related illnesses, such as diabetes and anxiety

All of these challenges create demand for greater productivity through efficiency that digitisation can bring – while ensuring the seamless customer experience can be less stressful and more convenient, quicker and more affordable.

Any significant shift to the delivery of over-the-counter to prescription medications will require alignment with regulators in different markets to establish pharmacy delivery services that can work to meet this growing patient demand, while respecting existing local rules on prescription medicines.

The e-health market in the Middle East and Africa was valued at $989 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $1.8 billion in 2024. It is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8 percent, according to a Global Ventures report.

MENA is predicted to be the fastest growing region in the Smart Health and Connected Hospital sector and is expected to be valued at $2.1 billion by 2022.

Globally, the prescription delivery services market is set to experience a significant growth of 17.8 percent CAGR from 2022 to 2030, with an estimated market value of around $117.2 million as of 2022. This ensures the new digital developments will be coming on stream and can be applied in MENA.

Health tech is going to revolutionise healthcare, empowering patients by transforming the old monolithic public services into individualised smart care – and delivering this change directly to people’s doors.

Jalil Allabadi is CEO of Dubai-based telemedicine consultation services firm Altibbi 

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