Information Technology Is Critical in Driving the Growth and Modernization of the Middle East Healthcare Sector

Top Quote Networking expert Ali Ahmar from Brocade Communications gives an insight into the criticality of technology in healthcare and trends that are shaping the industry. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) January 24, 2011 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates - The GCC healthcare sector is forecast to triple in worth over the next decade from $18bn currently to $55bn by 2020 according to a recent report by Kuwait Finance House Research Limited. An estimated $10bn worth of healthcare projects are planned or underway in the GCC. More than 200 new hospitals have been announced or are under construction, with a cumulative capacity of up to 27,009 beds most of which are due to be delivered in 2015.

    The majority of hospital networks have typically evolved over time. In many healthcare facilities, the challenges of trying to deploy modern applications and systems over older networking equipment and obsolete technologies are starting to show. When medical staff is focused on the effective delivery of patient care, the availability and integrity of information can literally be a matter of life or death.

    For the ICT teams that support medical staff in their work, the pressure to provide technologies that help to make them more mobile, reduce waiting times and improve productivity, while at the same time keeping operational costs down, is immense. If healthcare staff is to meet new targets and identify better way of working, with a view to improving the patient experience, it's clear that network upgrades that support next-generation wired and wireless healthcare applications will be needed. At the same time, it's equally clear that few healthcare ICT teams will be provided with the resources to design an optimal data network from scratch, so the priority for many will be tactical enhancements, supporting selective deployments that make a real difference to medical outcomes.

    So what does today's medical staff require from networking technologies and from the ICT staff who design, implement and support them? Ali Ahmar, networking expert and regional sales manager of Brocade Communications gives an insight below:

    For a start, there's the widespread migration from paper- and film-based to electronic medical records. It's no secret that paper is a major factor in out-of-control costs, inefficiencies and errors in the healthcare sector, but the transition to electronic medical records not only places an additional (and often multimedia) burden on existing data networks, but also increases staff reliance on them. For that reason, medical staff needs a network that can guarantee continuous high performance, unhampered by the slowdowns in data transmission that result from lack of bandwidth.

    At the same time, high performance needs to be matched with high security. Confidential patient information is among the most sensitive data that exists, and, in most jurisdictions, is subject to a host of legislative and regulatory controls. In 2009, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued public warnings to at least 10 NHS Trusts, after finding them in breach of the Data Protection Act. According to the ICO, NHS organisations were responsible for 30 per cent of the security breaches that were reported to the body in 2008 and 2009.

    While performance and security are paramount, new trends in medical practice are fuelling demand for better networks, too. Staff caring for patients increasingly needs to be able to work seamlessly across both wired and wireless networks, equipped with mobile PC carts, tablet PCs, PDAs and other wireless equipment. These devices free them from wired terminals, giving them ready access to patient information and the ability to diagnose and treat patients more quickly, regardless of their physical location in the hospital complex: wards, clinics, special-care units and so on.

    At the same time, they're looking to newer applications, such as wireless patient monitoring, to relieve them of the burden of conducting regular patient observations and to alert them immediately if a patient's condition deteriorates. By providing an uninterrupted record of patients' vital signs, held in a central location, wireless patient monitoring eliminates the need for medical staff to disconnect and reconnect leads to devices as patients are moved around the hospital.

    Increased mobility of both staff and patients, however, demands better levels of wireless network coverage and performance -- as do less critical, but still-valuable services such as medical equipment tracking using Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags and the provision of Internet access to long-term patients and hospital visitors.

    For modern healthcare professionals, better network-enabled communication and collaboration is a must-have, too. They are starting to expect that they will be able to share expertise and information more widely and more easily than ever before. Web conferencing and patient video monitoring are the kinds of unified communications (UC) services that promise great advances in patient care and cost benefits, too, but these applications don't work where audio and visual quality is compromised by network problems.

    Finally, medical staff is looking to make the move from physical, film-based X-rays and scans to electronic alternatives based on technologies such as PACS and DICOM. These, too, place their own burden on hospital networks -- and as new, high-speed CT scans allow doctors to take ever-more accurate, fine-grained views of a patient's body, medical imaging technologies are consuming available network resources at an unprecedented rate.

    It's no wonder then that Information technology spending in the UAE is expected to grow from around $ 3.1 billion in 2008 to nearly $4.7 billion by 2013, according to a report in 2009 by Business Monitor International and this is indicative of the trend in the Middle East as a whole. The modernisation of healthcare systems is seen as a hub for growth and a condition for the long-term sustainability of public health systems. IT investments are a fundamental part of these modernisation strategies.

    About Brocade
    Brocade® (Nasdaq: BRCD) develops extraordinary networking solutions that enable today's complex, data-intensive businesses to optimize information connectivity and maximize the business value of their data. For more information, visit

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    Ali Ahmar
    Regional Sales Manager - MENA
    GSM: +971 50 1810630

    Media Contact:
    Colin Saldanha
    Dubai - UAE
    GSM: +971 (50) 6400762

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