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The roadmap to introducing AI and Robotics in Healthcare

19 April, 2018

This article is part of “From Virtual to Reality: 7 practical steps to implementing AI and Robotics in Healthcare”, a PwC series first introduced by the Health Industries team at Arab Health 2018 in Dubai.

Read our other Healthcare Series articles

Hamish Clark, PwC Middle East Partner, Middle East Health Industries, talks to Forbes Middle East about AI and its successful implementation

With any transformation, the first step is realization and acceptance of the need to change, the next and more complex step is to successfully implement. The adoption of the technological opportunities offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare is no different.

In our 2017 healthcare report, ‘What Doctor?’, we explored the perceptions and public attitudes toward AI  and Robotics, and what would be required for people to engage with these technologies within the healthcare sector. Our survey findings showed that in the Middle East, over 65% of our survey respondents were open to the use of AI and Robotics to cater to many of their healthcare needs. This sends a clear and positive message that the public is ready to embrace the advancements in technology that are here now in order to obtain better and more personalised care.

The public’s readiness raises new questions to a different audience: healthcare business leaders. If the readiness to embrace AI and Robotics in healthcare exists, and the landscape for doing so is favorable, what are healthcare leaders doing to embrace and positively lead this disruption? And how can they ensure changes to their organisations will be implemented smoothly, safely, successfully, and in a way that retains public faith in something that will radically change the face of health provision forever?

These are questions that must be addressed quickly, because the world will not stand still on the adoption of AI and robotics and it is making headway. Research by CBI Insights found that some of the world’s top 100 AI startups - the AI 100 - had already raised a combined $11.7B in equity funding last year alone. In healthcare specifically, investors had poured over $1.79B in acquisitions and funding for 106 AI startups in healthcare in the first quarter of 2017. We are in the process of collecting responses to a survey that aims to understand the business readiness of healthcare leaders in the region. Preliminary results show us that while over 60% of respondents think AI and Robotics will have a major impact on their business in 10 years, less than 20% are actually doing something about it.

Powered with the knowledge that the public is ready, and with a young, digitally-connected and adept population, our region is in a unique position to capitalise on AI and Robotics in healthcare, and is given a new hope to tackle some of the biggest obstacles facing the health sector including the struggle to attract and retain a sustainable clinical workforce. The pace and agility of healthcare leaders’ response to the opportunities presented before them will determine whether they will be paving the way for others, or end up playing catch up.

The need for ‘now’ has led us to build on our thought leadership from last year. Through new research we have identified seven key areas that healthcare businesses need to consider if they are to successfully implement AI and Robotics.

These allow us to actualize the impact of these technological advancements making what we once considered virtual, our new reality:

AI comes with a lot of hype but none of it unsubstantiated - in fact, it represents a USD$320 billion opportunity for the region, as the findings of our latest report on the economic impact confirmed.

It represents not only one of the most potentially radical drivers of change that the region has ever experienced, but also one of the most exciting. But behind this excitement is the reality – the reality of integration, implementation, checks and balances, data analysis, strategy definition, investment focus, workforce management. If AI and robotics are the gleaming bodywork, the seven themes outlined here are the engine that gives it direction and purpose.

Public willingness to embrace AI and robotics as a central strand of the future of healthcare is clear across the Middle East. If the region’s healthcare businesses are to ensure this is a lasting perspective, rather than an ephemeral one, they will have to recognize, understand, and be tested by the machinery of unprecedented transformation.

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Hamish Clark

Hamish Clark

Health Industries Partner, Health System Transformation, PwC Middle East

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