GCC Leader Discuss Health Governance and Climate Adaptation


Future healthcare and governance policies and plans were discussed on Wednesday at the Harvard Business School GCC Alumni Club’s Crossroads GCC Future Impact Forum.

Her royal Highness Dr Maha bint Mishari bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Vice President, Al Faisal University, speaking at a session entitled ‘Planning for GCC’s Future Healthcare Systems’ said that during a time of change and increased public private partnership in the healthcare sector, physicians have to be advocated for and brought into the conversation.

“I’d like to advocate one thing that I see is totally forgotten in the whole issue, it is advocacy for the physicians we have,” she said.

“We are shifting towards private health insurance, in the Kingdom, and we are going to be advocating for our patients but we do not have a budget that works for the physicians and interfaces their needs and their issues or collaborates for their research and their meetings. I think this is very important from a governance dimension,” she added.

Dr Maliha Al Hashimi a Global Heath Leader and C-Suite Healthcare executive from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said that from a very long-time healthcare has always been seen as something that’s focused in hospitals or in terms of clinics.

“Healthcare really starts from the home, from cradle to the grave and it’s a paradigm shift of care which we’re witnessing in Saudi Arabia and the UAE where the focus of care has become more on proactive prevention,” she said.

“Wellness has become a very important in healthcare systems, the transformation that’s taking place, as you see, is not only a digital transformation, it’s also the understanding of what healthcare is,” she added.

Dr. Asma Al Mannaei, Executive Director of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi said that  achieving better life quality and longer life expectancies start with small steps.

“First of all we need to build systems that are based on evidence and knowledge,” she said. “We need to have a strong infrastructure of digital information readily available in real time. Secondly we need to enable the system to be agile to accept new innovations and technologies that is arising for the current challenges,” she said.

“What we are striving for right now in the UAE is establishing the second layer of the infrastructure of information that we need. We finished the phenotyping which is where all our healthcare data is linked in a single platform ‘Malafi’,  a health information exchange developed where access is provided to places from Cleveland Clinic, a renowned and specialized hospital to far end remote pharmacies in the western region,” she said. 

Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Dr Jorge Guzman said that there has been a tremendous progress in terms of quality metrics related to healthcare in the UAE.

“What is important is the quality of the reports and metrics, the alignment of all of the health care providers in collecting data and reporting it, and I think that the Department of Health has started to make those  and for sure an improvement in healthcare. The importance of alignment between healthcare providers and the government is key in terms of what we’re collectively trying to achieve as a health care system,” he said.

Chief executive Officer of American Hospital, Dubai, Sherif Beshara said that investments in the region do not have an exact formula.

One can decide how we move to position the healthcare system,  for example we can create a one stop shop healthcare provider and based on that can draw the right strategy, right investment and we’ll achieve our goals, there’s nothing right or wrong when it comes to investment however we have to decide where we want to reach,” he said.

During a session entitled ‘Governance in Government And Business Organisations’ His Excellency Abdullah Abdul Aziz Al Shamsi, Acting Director General of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, said there are great opportunities to enhance governance on a large scale by strengthening partnerships between the government and the private sector.  He said that 80% of Abu Dhabi’s economy is based on the government and its subsidiaries.

“This is what the Abu Dhabi Investment Office is working on to enhance the sustainability of that partnership,” he said.

Dr Huda AlMuaini, Director of Strategic Affairs Sector at the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, said that governance has changed the policies of the DOH in order to enhance the readiness of the health sector in Abu Dhabi.

“We have made many steps in this area to keep the sector in line with various changes and be more able to serve the public. We also worked in this field to enhance the sectors capabilities in terms of medical and other capabilities. Our readiness appeared during the Covid-19 crisis,” she said,

Aysha Sultan, Fellow of the Institute of Directors in the United Kingdom, said that a new system is being formed within the governance systems that relies heavily on modern technology.

“Modern technology gives various sectors readiness for a future that depends on technology, artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution. Technology helps businesses thrive on Although there are some challenges related to the application of modern technologies,” she said.

Chief Technology Officer at STC, Haitham Al-Faraj echoed Dr Aysha adding that the application of technology, especially those related to telecommunications, requires training and education of many sectors.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pioneering governance systems that had a vision towards the future of technology, which was translated on the ground, through technological infrastructures that contributed to confronting the Covid-19 crisis.

Waddah Ghanem Al Hashmi, Senior Director and Fellow of Board of Directors Institute, GCC said that society is more ready than before to apply modern technology.

“Society is more ready than before to apply modern technology such as artificial intelligence and others, the current generations are more amenable to accepting this change that is already taking place now”.

In a session focused on ‘Climate Adaptation’ panellists agreed that sustainability has come a long way in the UAE due to a solid future-focused vision supported by the creation of highly effective policies and regulations.

Paddy Padmanathan, CEO, ACWA Power, KSA, discussed the challenges facing water and energy and called on all parties to safeguard this critical infrastructure. [I’ve adapted this sentence, it’s OK?]

“Everybody is impacted by climate change. We are all in the same boat and we all need to find a solution,” he said.

We are now consciously looking at solutions and the questions are around a willingness to invest in technologies such as AI or machine learning and this is good news because we can find solutions faster by working together.

Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Majid Al-Futtaim Holding, UAE, said it was essential to take a holistic approach to sustainability and adaption.

Now with the UAE hosting the COP28 international climate conference, the focus will be on how the business world will be shaped by climate change in the next 15 to 20 years.

Regarding climate risk assessments, Al Zu’bi said his company comprehensively examined what the company would look like in the face of climate challenges such as floods — from asset and property level to the potential impact on the whole company.

Alexis Lecanuet, Senior Regional Managing Director, Accenture Middle East, meanwhile, said his company was focused on climate adaptation and decarbonization with plans to be net zero by 2025 supported by plans to transition to renewable energy.

Adaptation is critical in every respect, he said, from tackling the challenges of climate change to building a company that can adapt with relevance in the face of the next industry or technological disruption.

The forum, held at the Dubai Museum of the Future, continues on September 15 discussing challenges and solutions to national competencies, governance, food security, healthcare, sustainability and the digital economy in the GCC.

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