When it comes to healthcare, every country offers a different approach, and it’s always helpful to have international networking so that best practice can be shared. The UAE is currently investing in its healthcare infrastructure, with 40 public hospitals and a focus on creating an international healthtech network in Abu Dhabi via its tech and startup ecosystem, Hub71.

Dr. Asma Al Mannaei is director of healthcare quality at the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and has shared her thoughts about the future of healthcare technology in the Emirates.

Why should healthtech startups base themselves in Abu Dhabi and why in particular do you think they should they join the Hub71 tech ecosystem?

Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a global technology hub for startups from all over the world. A place for growth opportunities, where innovators can turn their ideas into reality through support, state-of-the-art infrastructure and access to a broader ecosystem. Abu Dhabi is a well-regulated world-class healthcare system. One unique argument to come to Abu Dhabi is the availability of very comprehensive data sets all in one database (e-claims about all healthcare transactions for more than 10 years, Emirate-wide central electronic patient record), the presence of internationally renowned healthcare providers (e.g. Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Imperial College London) the availability of different sources of funding, and the fact that the Department of Health is the regulatory body is proactively engaged in innovation and continuously supports to solve regulatory and other issues that could be showstoppers for innovation in other markets.

Hub71 is a world-class ecosystem which offers access to all required resources and innovators across all industries for cross-industry projects. It is an open space of passionate talents in an energised environment sharing insights and learning together to produce digital health solutions. At the same time, Hub71 hosts a very specific healthtech incubator operated by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and partners such as Plug and Play, that provides all very health-specific resources and knowledge that healthtech startups would require.

What healthtech startups are there already in Abu Dhabi and how have they benefitted from being based there?

The benefits of being based in Abu Dhabi differs from one startup to another, however, the main benefit for many was working with DoH support to enable their businesses. Many of them were enabled to conduct their first Proof of Concept in Abu Dhabi, being connected to a variety of partners, access to DOH network and resources and supported in regulation, while others were linked to sources of funding or supported to scale their business beyond Abu Dhabi. A wide variety of national and international startups currently operate in Abu Dhabi. Some offer technology-based patient services, others focus on cellular therapeutic, big data in healthcare, or efficiency improvement in healthcare operations.

What is your view on the future of healthtech in the new post-pandemic world and why is Hub71 well placed to take advantage of the changes brought about by the global lockdown?

In the midst of the current Covid-19 outbreak, digitalisation has taken a front seat. We cannot say that there is one future for healthtech, but almost all scenarios foresee a huge acceleration of digital services in the industry. The healthcare systems are having to adopt and accept these new changes as technological advancements are becoming indispensable part of healthcare improvements in the foreseeable future. In a time now where reliance on healthtech solutions will increase at a pace we have not seen before, Healthtech startups need to be successful and competitive; by combining expertise from a wide variety of technologies from far outside health, but also require specific health knowledge and access to testing sites in health. All of it provided by Hub71.

What tips would you give to healthtech startups looking to not just survive but thrive in the new world

Until the Covid-19 pandemic is over, surviving has become the imperative focus for all startups. There are many tips for startups, however we have to keep in mind that each day we are introduced to new information that requires a quick response.

But in general, my advice would be: be very agile and adaptable to market needs – our impression during COVID-19 crisis was that many startups required weeks only to react and adapt to new requirements, while incumbents needed months. Listen to your customers and interact with them Be ready and courageous to start with minimal viable products and ready to learn and pivot if required

How can Abu Dhabi compete with more established healthcare centres?

Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a global technology hub for startups from all over the world to base their operations. It is more agile and more comprehensive. It is bursting with passionate talents all around us which is not easily accessible for other regions and Abu Dhabi is a different market (MENA) and has different requirements than other regions. Also, more or less starting from scratch enables us to look right away into the future and avoid / learn from errors others have done before.