Before the pandemic, 48% of youth (15 -35) in MENA believed technology should be utilised to improve quality, facilitate access to information, and reduce costs. This is due to the high population growth, the increasing number of elderly patients, and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in MENA. Currently, the outbreak of COVID-19 will primarily contribute to the increase in demand to solve the region’s acute health challenges. 

The most promising digital technologies for health:

  • Telehealth, AI chatbots, and smartphone applications – appointments, chat or video-call consulting, easy access to information, and prescription requests and refills
  • Robotics, remote patient monitoring, and wireless medical devices
  • Advanced biometrics
  • User-enabled location data
  • Odour surveillance and biological learning
  • Air quality sensors and respiratory nasal filters
  • Smartphone technology/mobile labs for diagnostics and real-time data

Health innovation is not merely the responsibility of entrepreneurs but the whole ecosystem. Medical schools, hospitals, VCs, business incubators, donors, and NGOs, should all participate in creating more development resources. 

Health and medical startups in MENA suffer from limited access to finance, scarce testing resources, weak market linkages, talent gaps, and ambiguous regulations. Low consumption of digital services has always been one of the industry’s barriers to growth, but hopefully, no longer after the pandemic.