Arab Health 2015: Big Data Boosts MENA Fight Against ‘Lifestyle’ Diseases

Arab Health 2015: Big Data Boosts MENA Fight Against ‘Lifestyle’ Diseases

February 02, 2015 at 04:02pm

In the GCC region alone, the health-care treatment of non-communicable, “lifestyle” diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are expected to cost the region more than $68 billion by 2022. What’s more, given the current trajectory, nearly 80% of deaths in the Middle East and North Africa will result from non-communicable diseases. These represent twin challenges that could benefit from a radically new approach.

Certainly, it’s true that governments and health ministries across the region are working nonstop to address the causes of disease, as well as to improve early diagnosis of tumors, elevated blood sugar and hypertension, and to put in place the clinicians and technology to address the anticipated surge in demand for health-care services.

Big Data is emerging quickly as an important complement to the above, even here in this region.

“Effectively analyzing massive amounts of data can deliver insights that help to achieve faster and better decision-making. For the health-care sector this can mean more accurate diagnoses, greater operational efficiency and identifying evidence-based treatment plans that deliver better results with reduced risk,” says Laurent Rotival, CEO of GE Healthcare’s IT business in Russia & CIS, Turkey & Central Asia, Middle East and Africa.

The benefits of implementing such technologies in the MENA region could be magnified, since the region is lagging when it comes to gathering and sharing clinical data. For example, when making diagnostic and treatment decisions, clinicians, clinics and hospitals still rely solely on traditional data like medical records and histories, as well as real-time data on a patient’s condition, such as blood pressure or heart rate. There is little, if any, sharing of any of this data.

By contrast, “Big data analytics augment by integrating prior knowledge, historical data and experimental learning to create intelligent, actionable solutions in real-time,” says Rotival.

However, inroads in this region are being made. In Saudi Arabia for instance, the Ministry of Health and GE Healthcare are working to deploy an e-health interoperability standards program across different parts of the Kingdom’s health-care system to improve access, patient safety and the quality of healthcare.

In Egypt and Turkey, GE Healthcare has worked with public and private health-care providers on pilot projects to develop image exchange capabilities, enabling hospitals to share, store and send diagnostic images for remote assessment by radiologists.

In a region containing both some of the most densely, and most sparsely, populated areas of the planet, linking patients, doctors and hospital equipment using big data could help governments and health ministries address the big challenge posed by the coming rise in non-communicable diseases across the region.

GE Healthcare is sharing its Healthcare IT solutions during Arab Health, the largest healthcare exhibition and medical congress in the Middle East.

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