Data is next major healthcare milestone, assert GCC experts – but it must be used responsibly

Beyond Activ in Riyadh

Data is emerging as the next pivotal focus in healthcare, emphasised Gulf healthcare specialists Dr. Maliha Hashmi and Richard Jenkins, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Advisor, Middle East at PwC, during their participation in the Beyond Activ EMEA event in Riyadh on Thursday, February 22nd, where they served as closing keynote speakers.

Jenkins highlighted the transformative impact of data, referring to it as a great power enabler. “Data is making a huge difference. We can start predicting accurately. We are working with simulation digital twins. What would you be like if you did 10,000 daily steps, or if we removed the diabetes burden?”

However, while data is the next milestone in healthcare, there are significant challenges associated with its utilisation. “Historically, we’ve overlooked social determinants. There is data everywhere; the key is how to bring it together so that healthcare can use it.”

Jenkins envisioned enabling healthcare professionals to leverage data for continuous improvement, yet presently the workforce is “overwhelmed” by the sheer volume of data. He questioned the feasibility of individual and national-level data collection efforts.

Dr. Maliha Hashmi echoed the sentiment on the paramount importance of data, likening it to the new oil. “It’s converging everywhere. Since the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has witnessed a major focus on data, exemplified by initiatives like SEHA Virtual Hospital.”

She however cautioned that it must be used responsibly. “Data must be used ethically. Technology must be human-centric so that care is customised for your needs. This means acquiring the right data and using it the right way.” She elaborated on data practices in Saudi Arabia, highlighting efforts to use data with regulations. “The Kingdom is taking additional measures to safeguard data privacy. It’s our duty as responsible citizens to prioritise ethical data handling.”

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