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Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology, is partnering with STC, the largest telecom operator in the Middle East, to rollout telehealth solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence in a move that could transform the ability to diagnose and treat patients in remote and rural areas. The telehealth solutions provided by Philips allow hospitals and clinics anywhere in the country to be connected to command centers, through which doctors in other locations can treat patients remotely, providing better access to higher quality and more cost-effective care.

Eng. Riyadh Muawadh, Enterprise Senior VP at Saudi Telecom Co., commented, “We know that limited access to adequate ICT infrastructure is the biggest technological barrier to realizing telehealth solutions for disadvantaged and underserved communities. We have invested in our state of the art ICT infrastructure to help support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which has digital transformation at its heart. Spanning all corners of the country, our network is a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle in providing better access, higher quality and more cost effective care to all residents of the Kingdom and helping healthcare professionals in all locations feel confident and empowered in their day to day working lives.”

With healthcare in Saudi Arabia free to all Saudi residents and expatriate workers in the public sector, national healthcare financing is under strain from rapid demographic changes, an increase in sedentary lifestyles, rising costs, increasing user expectations, and changing disease patterns. The cost efficiencies brought by telehealth solutions are therefore key, with the command centre technology allowing one doctor to treat up to 150 patients a day. Electronic Intensive Care Units (eICUs) provide an additional layer of critical care service, with centralized co-located caregivers able to view interfaced physiologic data via workstations of 6-8 monitors and monitor patients anywhere in a hospital or across multiple hospitals to help detect critical issues and intervene before these advance. The monitoring of respiratory and sleep conditions is also made possible through services such as TeleRespiratory and TeleSleep.

Ozlem Fidanci, Philips Chief Executive Officer, Middle East and Turkey, added, “Access to care and quality of care is poorer in remote areas, and is compounded by the preference of many healthcare professionals to develop their careers in urban areas. A key challenge is attracting and retaining Saudi talent to the healthcare sector, in line with Vision 2030’s aim to add around 100,000 Saudi jobs. With access to technologies such as Artifical Intelligence and machine learning, telehealth enables healthcare facilities to better use their existing staff resources, supporting young doctors to make decisions and benchmarking the quality of care given against levels set by the world’s best healthcare providers.”

The combination of Artificial Intelligence and the data processing power of STC’s full range of cloud computing services means high volumes of patient data can be analysed in order to rapidly and accurately diagnose, treat and predict, remove human error, identify patterns and make real-time decisions. This can include analysis of patients’ vital signs to predict whether their status is set to deteriorate or improve, and whether they can be discharged in the next 24 hours or not, meaning length of hospital stay can potentially be shortened. It can also analyse history of illness to predict future patient outcomes.

Philips is a leader in centralized clinical command partnerships with health systems globally, and systems using Philips enterprise Telehealth solutions have recognized reductions in length of stay, mortality, as well as improved best practice quality alignment. As well as supporting job creation in the healthcare sector, the Philips and STC partnership will support Vision 2030 in its wider goals for improving the healthcare sector, with the telehealth partnership supporting specific objectives such as the reduction of wait times and infectious diseases, addressing chronic diseases and offering better training for doctors.