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Telehealth in Dubai: Is it the right choice for you?
Posted on Jan 26, 2016 by Travis Jones
The Dubai Health Authority recently launched a pilot program designed to put patients in one hospital in touch with doctors in others. This is an example of the telehealth trend that is on the rise globally. For those that are not familiar with telemedicine, UAE Medical Insurance has prepared this overview of it. Read on to find out more!
On Monday the Dubai Health Authority launched a pilot plan that could have a profound impact on how medical services are delivered in Dubai. While it may develop at a somewhat slow pace, and people may be slow to catch onto this new idea, telehealth is now coming to the Emirates in the form of a project called RoboDoc, and through RoboDoc people in Dubai will be able to take part in a revolutionary new way to consult their doctor.
As the DHA unveiled the pilot phase of the RoboDoc program, the organization’s Director of Information Technology Amani Al Jassmi said, “DHA is the first government health organization in the region to implement telehealth. This project is in line with the vision of Dubai Smart City and it is one of the core projects for the DHA because telehealth can ensure consistent high quality of care, anytime, anywhere and any place due to the remote present robot systems.”
From these statements, it’s clear that the Dubai government, as with the rest of emirate’s healthcare, is taking telehealth (also known as telemedicine) quite seriously. This is even further evidenced by the fact that the DHA is not only enabling telehealth for those in Dubai, but it is providing hardware for them to use as well. Patients will be able to actually interact with a ‘robot’ in selected spots – the first being in the emergency department of Hatta Hospital. This robot can then directly connect patients at Hatta Hospital with doctors at other medical facilities, which in this case would be the Trauma Centre at Rashid Hospital. Furthermore, beyond getting in contact with a doctor or specialist quickly, telehealth even allows for doctors to be in conference with multiple other doctors in multiple locations, to allow for exceptionally deep specialist consultations.
So where will the RoboDoc project go? In the future, the DHA has plans to proliferate the program to NICU and ICU departments around the Emirate to further facilitate patient consultations.
How telehealth works
The RoboDoc program as it sits today is about people in hospitals being able to connect with medical professionals in other hospitals. However, this is not necessarily what telehealth is all about. Expanding on the somewhat narrow use the RoboDoc program has created, telehealth systems can be used for a variety of educational, health and medical uses. Some of these uses include:
Professional and consumer education
Chronic disease management and monitoring
Occupational and physical therapy
These services can be delivered to patients through a variety of mediums and systems. The system that the RoboDoc system implements is a synchronous live video approach. This is a live dialogue between patient and doctor over video in real time, and is, perhaps, the best replacement for an in-person consultation the telehealth can offer.
There is another type of telehealth service similar to video approach, but instead of a live interaction between patient and doctor information is recorded and stored until the other party is able to watch it. This is a slower way of doing a consultation, but is also means patients can be seen to by a doctor even when they are not currently available. This secure video can also be accessed at any later time for review since it is being saved. This process is known as store-and-forward telehealth.
A third type of telehealth is known as remote patient monitoring (RPM). With RPM, video is no longer the focus, and only data about the patient is collected and stored. For conditions that can be monitored by a transmitting device of some sort, such as a Holter monitor for cardiac patients, this means that patients can continually remain in comfort at home while their doctors still have access vital information that they can base decisions on.
Finally, a common type of telehealth is known as mobile health. This is telehealth on a smaller scale, as it is carried on through small portable electronic devices, such as tablet computers or mobile phones. Apps can be utilized to disseminate information to patients or remind them of important care measures that they must carry out. These devices can also store and transmit data for later review.
Pros and cons of Telehealth
Let’s look at some of the various factors you may want to consider when deciding if telehealth is right for you.
Less time at the doctor's reduces your chances of being infected by others
Access to more doctors
Easy 2nd opinions
Doctors are available anytime and anywhere
Studies have shown that telehealth consultations are just as effective as in-person meetings
As a matter of fact, it could even be said that telehealth consultations could be more effective than in-person meetings given the right equipment. This is because some telehealth computer hardware is able to provide a diagnostic of the patient simply by analyzing them through the camera. Now let’s look at the cons.
Using the technology
Often dependent on internet connection
Cost of equipment
Higher risk of data breach
Seemingly, as long as you are comfortable learning and using new technologies, and either have access to the proper equipment or can afford to buy it yourself, you should have no problem using telehealth services.
Telehealth and insurance
Telehealth is on the cutting edge of global medical care, but that does not mean much to most people if their insurance company will not cover it. So where do Dubai insurers stand with regards to covering telehealth consultations?
As it stands, telehealth is a new feature in the Dubai healthcare landscape, so not all health insurance policies will make mention of it, let alone provide coverage for it. As for the recent DHA health reform, coverage for telehealth is not explicitly mentioned to be a minimum requirement for health insurance policies. This means that it's up to each individual to dig into their policy and see if coverage can be provided.
As time passes by and telehealth is proliferated across the Middle East, it will become more and more likely that both medical facilities and insurance companies will recognize its importance. For right now, however, if you have any questions about whether or not your current or future health insurance policy covers telehealth, you should speak to an insurance expert like those working at UAE Medical Insurance. Our helpful agents can check your policy, advise on its contents, compare plans from other insurers, and even give you a free price quotation if needed. Contact them today!