Investment in smart technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms helped Qatar avoid a full lockdown during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said Wednesday.
“We in Qatar had started setting up one central system for all public health facilities through Cerner, and this helped us have the entire system connected together as one unit,” he said. “This was a great help for us during the pandemic.”
“We also invested more in smart monitoring systems, such as Ehteraz and other smart systems,” said Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, the director of the MoPH’s Public Health Department. “This investment in smart technologies helped Qatar avoid a full lockdown, which most other countries in the world had to face.”
He was speaking at a panel discussion on *The Internet of Things in Health Emergencies at the Qatar Economic Forum (QEF), Powered by Bloomberg.
“We were sure from the beginning that we need technology to face any situation and we had already worked on these aspects,” Sheikh Mohamed said. “The Internet of Things is one area we were very keen to invest in. This could lower the pressure on healthcare system and assured confidence in the economy during the lockdown.”
“Qatar had worked out a clear policy right from the beginning to face the pandemic, and we had observed the situation keenly,” he added. “When other countries started facing the pandemic, we knew that the virus will reach us sooner or later.”
“This also provided the message that the world should work together as one to make it a safe place,” he explained.
The official noted that despite the Covid-19-related restrictions, the economy kept moving due to Qatar’s reliance on technology.
"All our work and investment in modern technologies such as IoT and cloud computing helped us face the challenges and overcome them strongly,” Sheikh Mohamed noted. “When we started investing in these technologies, it was a very costly affair, but we are getting real benefits of this investment and the people and country are benefiting from it.”
Other panelists on the discussion were GE Healthcare chief medical officer (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Dr Mathias Goyen, Fullerton Health group chief operating officer Margareta Laminto, New Frontier Health chief executive and United Family Healthcare founder Roberta Lipson, Roche Diagnostics managing director (Asia Pacific region) Lance Little, Medidata Solutions senior vice-president and general manager (Asia Pacific) Edwin Ng, and and Mohamed A Saleh, regional industry director (Health & Life Sciences) at Microsoft Middle East & Africa.
The session was moderated by Rachel Chang, team leader (Asia Consumer) of Health & Media News at Bloomberg.
GE Healthcare’s Dr Goyen said that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for the entire healthcare industry and at the same time an accelerator for the implementation of technology in healthcare and other sectors.
“More hospital officials say they have progressed more in the last 10-12 months in their thinking about mobile and virtual health,” he said. “Also patients’ attitudes are changing.”
“Patients do not tend to go to a provider for a physical visit if a virtual visit can solve the issue,” Dr Goyen added. “Covid-19 has also made patients’ inclinations more open to embracing new technologies. This is the momentum that we will have to carry on."
“We need a real change management system and a paradigm shift,” he said. “The clinicians and people who are dealing with the new technologies should promote it internally and become agents of change.”
According to Roche Diagnostics’ Little, no governments or companies alone can manage a pandemic like Covid-19.
“Clinicians, academicians, technicians and all others have to come together to face such challenges,” he said. “Many healthcare systems are not resilient enough to face such health shocks.
“They should examine and analyses the shortcomings in their healthcare systems and suggest the steps to prevent future external shocks to be more resilient.”
“We also have to take care of non-pandemic patients, he added. “The driver of resilience is digitisation.”