Conferences & expos

Booming show reflects region’s growth

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A 20% increase in visitor turnout and the significant volume of business deals generated at Arab Health 2006, bodes well for the future of the sector in the region, the world’s leading equipment and services providers said at the close of the event at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

Although a final tally of the value of deals signed during the four-day exhibition was not immediately available, estimates suggest the number will be substantially higher than the $40 million worth of deals generated last year. Siemens Medical Solutions secured a $27 million contract from the Saudi German Hospitals group to supply the latest SGH Group hospital in Yemen. GE Healthcare also announced a $5 million contracts value in the early days of Arab Health 2006, alongside other significant deals involving major providers.

“Arab Health is a complete reflection of expenditure in the regional market,” said Vicky Lee, exhibition director, IIR Middle East. “There is an increased level of expenditure at the moment, and we don’t anticipate any slowdown. The regional healthcare market is growing 10 to 15% every year, not just in the UAE but across the region.

There aren’t very many places in the world where the sector is this dynamic.” “The Middle East healthcare sector is outperforming in terms of what targets the service and equipment providers are setting for this region,” Lee added. “The Middle East region is outperforming North America, Europe and Asia in growth terms, and most companies are exceeding their expectations here.”

The next Arab Health will be held from January 27 to 31, 2007, and exhibitors at Arab Health 2006 – which occupied all 10 halls of the Dubai International Exhibition Centre – are already clamouring for additional space in the 2007 edition. The German, Chinese and American pavilions have booked 15%, 30% and 25% larger spaces respectively. More than 2,000 companies from 50 countries participated in this year’s Arab Health, alongside 30 national pavilions.

Jean Marc Andral, regional manager sales for GE Healthcare Technologies, said he was impressed by the show’s evolution over the last decade, and said Arab Health is no longer just a bellwether for the regional healthcare industry, but a significant international congress in its own right.

“For GE, Arab Health is one of the most significant medical shows in the world,” Andral said. “Much of the technology we are displaying here has only been shown once internationally, at its debut in North America in December 2005, and we are using this opportunity to reach out not just to the Middle East, but also to our clients in South and North Africa, Asia and Europe.”

Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, director general of the Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS), Government of Dubai, said several specialty teams from the DoHMS network had visited the exhibition and would be reporting back on the available technologies in the coming weeks.

“Arab Health is a very important exhibition for the whole of DoHMS, as it makes it possible for us to see and incorporate cutting-edge technology and information,” he said. DoHMS has also signed up for a new picture and archiving communication system to link the 30 facilities within its network, he added.

Arab Health Congress

More than 6,000 physicians from around the region also attended the Arab Health Congress’ 12 scientific and medical conferences that ran parallel to the exhibition. Headlined by the Leaders in Healthcare conference, the congress also included four brand-new conferences including the Middle East Obs-Gyne Conference, Middle East Spinal Surgery Symposium and the Interventional Radiology Conference.

In parallel to the Arab Health exhibition a wide range of conferences were held covering the latest developments in diabetes to the newest technologies in imaging. The congress is believed to be the largest multi-track medical conference event in the world. Also covered topics such as diabetes and the newest technologies in imaging.

Preventative medicine

The key speaker at the Leaders in Healthcare conference, management guru Tom Peters urged healthcare professionals attending the conference to embrace a paradigm shift towards longterm health and well being.

He said: “The medical community needs to shift its focus from the ‘fix it’ mindset to the ‘prevent it’ mindset and aim for the patient wellness- healing-health cycle. “Patients not only need to get well faster but we also need to enable them to stay well longer. Diet, extreme exercise, meditation, medical supplements and a teetotaler lifestyle would go a long way in disease prevention. There is a need to integrate complementary and alternative practices into conventional care,” he said.

“Only a fraction of patients can afford quality healthcare services around the world. We need to provide a higher quality of healthcare to a much larger number of people than we do at present. This is where Dubai can play a major role by providing a large number of services to positively impact regional health,” Peters said while outlining the role of Dubai as a global centre of excellence in healthcare delivery.

The paradigm shift towards preventative medicine is also being promoted by the major medical equipment manufacturers such as GE Healthcare, Siemens and Philips. Middle East Health spoke to these companies and all pointed out that with their advanced imaging and diagnostic equipment preventative medicine was now a reality.

With equipment such as the 64-slice CT, 3.0T MR, PETCT combination and developments in molecular imaging it is possible to detect disease at a very early stage, before any symptoms show, and treat it quickly and successfully.

They said there was a new generation of young people in Europe and the United States that lead busy productive lives and could not afford to get sick. They do not wait to get sick, but instead have regular health checks and if they have disease it is diagnosed in the very early stages and is easily and quickly treated, meaning few side effects and less time in hospital.

PACS & eHealth

At the 6th Middle East Imaging & Diagnostic Conference speakers commented about the growing interest in and implementation of picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) in the Middle East healthcare sectors. They pointed out that this sector of the healthcare industry shows no signs of slowing in the near future. They said digital medical imaging and archiving is set to play an increasingly important role in government and private healthcare networks and several major contracts are likely to be signed over the next few years.

In this field, Kodak Health Group have been making inroads into the Middle East market. Patrick Koch, the group’s marketing manager for the Europe, Africa and Middle East region told Middle East Health that the group, among other projects in the region, had recently installed a PACS system in Cerrahpasa Medical School, Instanbul, Turkey and had provided a full digital radiography suite to the Al Sabah Paediatric Hospital in Kuwait. “This is a total radiology solution including both PACS and RIS (radiology information system),” Koch said.

He said that Kodak, which is in the top five PACS and RIS suppliers worldwide, had recently won a huge contract to supply an eHealth network of over 40 sites for the Scottish Ministry of Health. In northern Finland Kodak recently won the contract as the main supplier for the RATU eHealth project, which will integrate the medical imaging and information systems across 80 data sites in five Finnish hospital districts. RATU, which stands for regional RIS/PACS and eConsultation service in Northern Finland, is intended to provide a pilot for the whole of Finland, aimed at creating a total solution for production, processing and archiving of patient information.

“In fact we are doing five major projects in Europe. What we are doing in Europe is good for the Middle East. The Middle East is at an advantage as we can take this advanced technology and develop an eHealth network from the ground up. However, in Europe we have to integrate sites which already have technology in place, but which is often different from site to site and outdated,” Koch said. The digital system in Finland, for example, will centralise patient information while improving information sharing and workflow with the goal of enhancing patient care.

Speakers at the conference pointed out that in hospitals around the world PACS / RIS systems have led to advances in patient care, including shorter hospital stays, decreased waiting times and faster diagnoses.

Diabetes


At the diabetes conference Professor J Burke presented a lecture on Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy. Dr Burke pointed out that pain, sensory neuropathy wounds and amputations are all the result of poor circulation. He said better circulation is critical to helping patients with diabetes to reduce pain, restore sensation and heal wounds. He discussed a new method to improve circulation called MIRE (Monochrome Infrared Photo Energy). He said MIRE increases circulation thereby decreasing pain, improving wound healing and restoring sensation by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels. Prof Burke said treatment to improve circulation had cut diabetic amputations by up to 90%.

Dr Oussama Khatib, speaking at the conference, called for the screening for diabetes of all UAE residents, especially those over the age of 40 in an effort to stop the epidemic of diabetes in the UAE. About one in four people in the UAE are believed to have overt diabetes. He also called on countries to set up more primary health care centres to provide early treatment options and preventative measures.

                                  
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