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UAE Embraces Telehealth In COVID-19 Battle Featured

In The iPMI Picture: Dr. Nairah Rasul-Syed, Medical Director at vHealth. In The iPMI Picture: Dr. Nairah Rasul-Syed, Medical Director at vHealth.

Stay-at-home restrictions, social distancing and the closure of healthcare facilities, have led to more UAE residents using telehealth services than ever before.

Recent data from vHealth one of the UAE’s leading telehealth providers shows a 500% increase in utilisation between March and September 2020, compared to the same period last year. 

Take-up of telehealth soars

As well as obvious concerns around the virus itself, Dr. Nairah Rasul-Syed, Medical Director at vHealth confirms that the knock-on effect of COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of UAE residents, “Whether it’s a lack of activity or the fear of losing a job, we have seen a significant increase in cases of weight-gain, hypertension and vitamin D deficiency over the last few months, as well as stress, anxiety and other mental-health concerns”, she explains. “Services like vHealth provided a much-needed lifeline to those who were confined to their homes but wanted to address their health conditions.”

As a case in point, the number of UAE residents using telehealth services for mental health support peaked during key waves of the pandemic. With stress and anxiety on the increase, 60% of vHealth consultations relating to mental health occurred between March and May with a further 23% in August.

The new normal in UAE healthcare

What’s interesting is that although the pandemic kick-started the increased use of telehealth services, customers throughout the UAE have adapted quickly. vHealth data shows that 25% have already used the service more than once and seem happy to stick with the new system. Appointments now cover a full spectrum of health concerns and 90% of patients avoid the need for further care.

In reality, it’s no longer just about COVID-19. As customers get more accustomed to telehealth, they’re starting to see the true value of the service. People are clearly more reluctant to sit in hospital waiting rooms and pharmacies, but they also appreciate the many benefits of being able to resolve their health care needs in the comfort of their own home.

UAE quicker than most to embrace technology

In a country where people prioritise convenience, experience and technology, it’s no surprise that the UAE has embraced telehealth quicker than most. Recent Aetna International research found that 54% of UAE expats are highly likely to use virtual healthcare services to access primary care, 14% higher than the global average.

To those who are close to telehealth, widespread take-up of the service was only a matter of time. Joe Hawayek, senior director & head of vHealth MEA explains, “There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has helped to accelerate adoption, but confidence in services like vHealth were already growing before the pandemic. Customers trust the service and see it as a marked improvement on face-to-face consultations. You only have to look at our customer satisfaction scores to realise that those who have tried it are going to use it more and more in the future.” 

With growing pressure on employers to provide health benefits to their employees, telehealth is high on the agenda for corporate organisations. Data shows that vHealth consultations save employees around 3 hours away from work, which is one of many reasons why the service is so popular. 

“Telehealth is becoming a fundamental feature of every corporate health plan in the UAE”, adds Joe. “Employers are increasingly aware of its potential to drive down costs and improve productivity. Plus, it’s a benefit that they know their employees will use and appreciate.”

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