Interview with Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, Chairman & MD, VPS Healthcare

“We are in an era where we have access to such technologies that offer safer, faster and more tailored treatments. They harness the power of innovation, achieving a far greater degree of personalisation and precision in medicine than has ever been possible before,” shares healthcare pioneer Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil.

 In less than a decade, Dr. Vayalil has established VPS into an integrated healthcare group with 20 operational hospitals, over 100 medical centres, pharmaceutical manufacturing and other healthcare support services spread across the Middle East, Europe and India. Today, VPS Healthcare is an established name within healthcare and pharmaceutical and allied services sectors with presence across the UAE, Oman and India. Below he discusses the different technological developments permeating through the healthcare industry in the region and the Group’s plan for Arab Health 2019.

As Chairman and Managing Director for VPS Healthcare, what do you think is currently driving the healthcare industry forward, both in the Middle East and Africa region and globally?

There is a pressing need for countries to build sustainable healthcare systems, especially given high prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases. In parallel, governments are also exploring ways to reduce their share of healthcare spend. This new landscape calls for affordable and accessible healthcare, without compromising on quality.

These indicators also signal the need for us to maximise efficiencies in the healthcare sector. Innovation and the creation of new services will be a step in the right direction to drive sustainable business in this environment. As new offerings get introduced in the market, it is imperative that healthcare providers are able to work with regulators to ensure that we have the right frameworks in place, which benefit the industry, and most importantly, patients.

We believe VPS Healthcare’s value-based approach to healthcare has the potential to unlock benefits for patients and help shape the future of the industry, despite the underlying challenges we face.

What current trends do you see specifically in the UAE healthcare industry and what do you see as the growth areas going forward?

The UAE has already begun building a sustainable healthcare roadmap. The services and infrastructure are both constantly evolving in order to exceed international healthcare standards, thus promoting medical tourism. This, in turn, is attracting foreign investment and is drawing in more healthcare practitioners every year.

The UAE is also developing into a robust pharmaceutical hub. Now we need to build a strong pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity to cater to global demand and align with the country’s aspirations to transition into a knowledge economy. We are very proud that LIFEPharma, our pharmaceutical manufacturing company, which has a facility in Jebel Ali Free Zone, and will be opening another facility in Abu Dhabi, is helping lead this transformation.

In addition to building infrastructure for the UAE’s healthcare sector, we need to continue to invest in technology aimed at improving healthcare delivery. Technology and digitisation are already impacting healthcare delivery and recovery like never before. VPS Healthcare is continuing the push towards personalised medicine. We are in an era where we have access to such technologies that offer safer, faster and more tailored treatments. They harness the power of innovation, achieving a far greater degree of personalisation and precision in medicine than has ever been possible before.

What are the major healthcare market segments that are likely to expand, and why is this so?

The UAE healthcare industry will continue to grow with special emphasis on ultra-specialised services. Healthcare will continue to increase its focus on prevention and on evidence-based medicine. Personalised medicine, powered by genomic information and tools like surgical robots, will continue to evolve rapidly and make the future of medicine more virtual and portable.

We are already seeing how the data generated from electronic medical records, telemedicine platforms and remote monitoring tools offer insights that enable disease prevention and more precise healthcare delivery. As data becomes more extensive, offers faster connectivity and smarter devices, we will be able to use this information to enhance the overall patient experience, beyond the four walls of a hospital.

What, according to you, are some of the practical steps the region can take to improve their national health systems?

The region’s health sector has evolved at a rapid pace and we have been running shoulder to shoulder with global trends. We are now on the verge of a major transformation with the growing use of technology and data to create patient centric solutions. These developments, together with improvements in the quality of healthcare provision and rising demand for preventative care, will fuel the growth of this sector, which is key to helping the UAE diversify its economy and meet the objectives of its national agenda. Together with the public sector, we are helping create more opportunities to provide innovative healthcare services. Ultimately, a thriving healthcare industry will benefit the people of the UAE and the expansion of an ecosystem, which is key for socio-economic progress.

Moving forward, we need to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) more into our medical programmes and focus on medical education. The new generation of doctors needs to be prepared for the evolution the healthcare sector is experiencing. The UAE is already acting as a pioneer, paving the path for innovators from various countries to contribute to the growing healthcare industry in the region and the nation.

How important is innovation in healthcare? What are the technological, medical and strategic innovations that your company brings to the healthcare arena?

AI and machine learning can help the healthcare facilities provide efficient and impactful interventions at exactly the right moment in a patient’s care. These can also provide better insights into diagnostics, care processes, treatment variability, and patient outcomes.

We have a well-functioning healthcare system. Our key to success has been the result of our focus to integrate prevention, detection and treatment in our services. We have a technology assessment division that is responsible for identifying and rigorously evaluating potentially useful technologies for adoption in our service.

However, we need to put more resources into providing scientists and research experts with the facilities, laboratories, and tools necessary to speed this up and offer our patients access to more viable options for diagnoses and treatments.

What new products or innovative technology will you be showcasing at Arab Health 2019?

We are planning to launch a unique digital healthcare solution that combines teleconsultation, telemonitoring and home health to provide healthy, acute and chronic condition management for UAE residents. The innovative service uses futuristic, cutting-edge technologies to foster change in the healthcare ecosystem. Our purpose is to provide the patients access to reliable healthcare round-the-clock. We are confident that our solution to healthcare will change patient behaviour by providing them access to an integrated delivery system that avoids unnecessary wastage of healthcare resources.

What is unique or new about the products you are presenting at Arab Health this year?

VPS is looking for opportunities to develop its medical tourism programmes and rapid expansion of the Group’s drug manufacturing arm with focus on oncology and vaccines and highly specialised R&D, apart from O&M (operations and maintenance) opportunities.

As a company closely associated with Arab Health for the past several years, how would you evaluate the impact of the event on the healthcare industry in the MENA region?

Arab Health is the most premium trade event for the healthcare industry in the Middle East. The show paved the way for the rapidly expanding healthcare systems to meet the needs of residents in the UAE and other GCC countries.

Arab Health has also introduced numerous technologies to the region that are playing a key role in the transformation of health services. The exhibition has also helped policymakers, who are taking steps to enhance the health sector, in addition to boosting the sector and improving the performance of hospitals and other facilities.

What, according to you, are the real benefits and opportunities available to healthcare and trade professionals to attend Arab Health?

It is an exciting time for the UAE health sector. Digital health technologies are playing a central role in the transformation of health services envisioned by the health authorities. We need to raise awareness about the importance of e-healthcare and its role in improving performance, services and the use of resources in the health sector.

E-health will be an essential part of this transformation and will support it so as to contribute significantly to the improvement of health services and streamline access to such health services. Since the future is brighter with the use of technologies in health services, there is a need to train and qualify health practitioners to use these new techniques.

27 - 30 January 2020