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Renowned international experts gathered to share experiences from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Nordic region, on the importance of leveraging disruption. Speakers discussed how collaborations between the public and private healthcare sectors are creating a significant transformation in new business models of care, in the session, ‘Driving Innovation – What Is a Healthy Dose of Disruption?’

The speakers were Dr Taghreed Justinia, regional director IT services, Technology & Health Informatics, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Dr Fadi Al-Buhairan, deputy CEO, Saudi Post Co. and Bogi Eliasen, futurist, CIFS.

Nobody could have predicted a global health crisis like COVID-19 and the damage it has reaped on industries, the economy and societies as a whole. However, the positive aspect has been the ensuing disruption that has become a catalyst for digital transformations, which has led to the explosion of technological innovation in healthcare systems. This acceleration has seen years of change happen in a matter of months, leading experts to realise that disruption should not be the end-goal of innovation and digital transformation.

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Eliasen started the panel discussion with a presentation on the future health paradigm in the Nordic region: “One of the premises is that it’s not technology that’s lacking. It’s more decisions and the capacity to act and execute decisions and why it’s also necessary to think differently and what this new paradigm is.

“A premise here is also to have a focus on the quality of life and wellbeing as being the goals and seeing the health budget as an investment and not a cost.”

He also touched on the Nordic Health 2030 Movement, which aims to ensure the longevity of the healthcare system and quality of life across the region: “Last year, we did the huge scenario process in the Nordic countries with 30 public and private stakeholders.

“Something that we had prepared for two years in order to bridge in between the Nordic countries which are quite mature on digitalisation in society and being welfare societies, but also to prepare for what is it we really want with health.”

Technology and humans converging

Technology and humans converging in healthcare delivery was also a topic touched on by the panel, on this Dr Al-Buhairan said: “As much as we believe technology and digital can enable and take us to that next level, that whole physical and digital divide that is created needs to converge because in healthcare, that physical touchpoint will always remain critical.”

On ways to bridge this divide, Al-Buhairan said: “It comes back to disruption because everything we talked about with digital healthcare is really about how we disrupt the industry and how we disrupt our current processes and take them to the next level by certain interventions.”

Eliasen also explained the change of health models that we are witnessing in the current COVID-19 climate: “We have heard a lot about the digital twin, but in reality, we might be moving towards what we call a digital triplet. Where we have this human and sustainable health model, and as a person, you also can work with this and share it where it makes sense for you.”

Disruption opportunities from COVID-19

Discussing the opportunities presented by the pandemic, Al-Buhairan said: “From the positive and negative aspects of disruption, a typical pattern emerges as new technologies come to market and subsequently take hold.

“When we look at the past decades, and what digital has done within healthcare, we have realised that patterns have emerged, trends have taken place, things have become obsolete and new technologies have taken over.

“We then need to realise that industries are getting closer and closer together. In the past, we looked at the health care industry, and then logistics industries as two different silo industries.

“We now start to look at them and say, well, how can these industries actually help and complement one another, as we move more into the digital space,” notes Al-Buhairan.

Social determinants of health

Taghreed asked the panel where they think that there is a risk of creating new divides between the wealthy and those less fortunate through technology delivery. Eliasen responded: “How do we ensure that the newest technology doesn’t just go to the richest 10% of the world, but actually provides a health impact for the other 90%? This is not a challenge for any country as such, but for all of us.

“Having in mind that the biggest impact we can have is actually working outside of the 10%. Also, in order to create a world that is better for all of us. So yes, there is a challenge, and we need to deal with it. But there are some premises in order to work with data.”

“COVID is the biggest window of opportunity in at least a generation if not two, and we probably will not get it in another generation.

“If we are all driving towards personalised health, we would need data on a totally different granularity and data that we share across boundaries because we are going to work in very small subgroups. No country holds that. Going towards this part, also automatically enforces us to work with the other 90%.

“This is how I would put the challenge forward. The answer to your question, yes, there is a challenge so let’s use this opportunity to bridge it,” concluded Eliasen.

The challenges of disruptive services

Taghreed also asked the panel what they thought their biggest challenge to overcome was when creating disruptive services.

Al-Buhairan responded: “I’m a big believer in disruption. I’m a big believer in rocking the boat at times and changing the course because sometimes when you’re rocking the boat or shaking that mindset, that is what will get people to open their eyes.

“When we talk about disruption in healthcare, specifically, I think any disruption with healthcare will reap its benefits and dividends and yes, there might be some unintended consequences that we may have not realised. But A, they are unintended and B, hopefully, they will be minimal and be immaterial to the grand scheme of the benefit that we’re trying to strive for.”

The panel concluded the session by sharing their perspective and comparisons from the lessons learned from the Nordic health movement and Saudi Arabia’s digital journey, and how to apply these lessons to the Saudi 2030 vision.

Eliasen said: “The first learning is that you need to build ecosystems, and the future does provide overlapping ecosystems. It’s very much the convergence part. We’re going to learn a lot from other industries that have nothing to do with health.

“The other side is, while technology drives development, if we want to steer it in a certain direction, we need to figure out what are the cornerstones we want to be inside.”

Al-Buhairan explained his views on the Vision 2030 and how disruption will assist in the Kindom’s plans: “The reality of it is huge. It is more ambitious than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime at a national level.

“The reality of it is, we’ve already been in that transformation for a number of years, so we’ve already witnessed a lot of change. At the economic level, at the social level, a number of different reforms that have taken place within healthcare, there still is a transformation going on there.

“If we want to achieve that ambition, my honest view is, we will absolutely need to be disruptive because the reality of it is, we’re trying to do what other nations have done in 30, and 40 years within a 10-15 year timeline.”

Sandesh Ilhe
Sandesh Ilhe
With an Engineers degree in Advanced Database Management and Information Security, Sandesh brings the deep understanding of the digital world to the table. His articles reflect the challenges and the complexities that come along with every disruption in the industry. He carries over six years of experience on working with websites and ensuring that the right article reaches the right reader.