IoT gains momentum in GCC hospitals; IDC

IDC Health Insights predicts that IoT spending will grow by more than 20% per annum in some segments of the healthcare industry

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IoT gains momentum in GCC hospitals; IDC Problems with privacy and security and a lack of interoperability standards, are inhibiting IoT implementations
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  December 26, 2016

IDC Health Insights has highlighted that the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly going mainstream within the healthcare industry of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The firm projects IoT spending by healthcare providers across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) to surpass $500m in 2016, and it forecasts that IoT spending will grow by more than 20% per annum in some segments of the healthcare industry.

According to a recent survey conducted by IDC Health Insights, hospitals are currently ahead of the curve in terms of IoT adoption, with hospitals across Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as many as 50%, are currently using some type of IoT-based solutions.

IoT-enabled solutions are emerging in the tracking and monitoring of people and assets (patients, staff, and various medical "things"), using technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and barcoding. However, the uses are expected to broaden in terms of supporting care delivery, especially in the areas of monitoring hospitalised patients, and "smart" systems for pharmacy management.

Although still at a nascent stage, telehealth systems and systems for remote patient monitoring are also gaining more attention, particularly in Saudi Arabia where the gaps in healthcare coverage are more pronounced due to the country's large size and its lack of medical facilities and specialists in remote areas.

"While health, wellness, and fitness wearables have become a fashionable way of supporting healthy lifestyles among consumers, healthcare payers and providers are striving to benefit from the possible cost savings arising from their potential preventive value," said Nino Giguashvili, a senior research analyst IDC Health Insights.

"Health authorities across the GCC are increasingly promoting their use as a method of encouraging healthy lifestyles. For example, the Dubai Health Authority has initiated an incentive program aimed at rewarding residents for healthy behaviour that is based on data recorded by fitness trackers," adds Giguashvili.

According to IDC Health Insights, IoT has already passed the "why" stage and moved onto the "how" stage in many of the areas of possible use in GCC markets. "Technology transformation will sit at the heart of the healthcare developments being undertaken in the GCC," stated Giguashvili. "The tip of the iceberg is already visible, and the growing convergence of mobile, big data, social media, and IoT will play an unparalleled role in the digital transformation of GCC healthcare systems, accelerating innovation and enabling the region-wide drive toward gold-standard healthcare models as envisioned by the long-term development plans set by GCC governments."

However, the problems with privacy and security, as well as a number of other factors, such as issues with data quality, the costs of implementation, and a lack of interoperability standards, are inhibiting IoT implementations.

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