Despite AI readiness, Middle East lags in adoption

Two-thirds of public citizens in the Middle East are ready to embrace AI in healthcare, while only 10 percent of businesses in the industry are ready or have begun adopting the technology, according to a new report by PwC Middle East.

Despite the large gap, healthcare leaders in the Middle East believe AI will have a major impact on their businesses within the next 10 years and are beginning to take steps to adopt the technology.

“With regulators actively working on developing governance and regulatory frameworks that can facilitate the application and implementation of AI for healthcare businesses, PwC’s view is that the Middle East is in a unique position to lead the development of international standards and become a hub for AI research and development,” PwC predicted in a press release.

For the report, PwC researchers spoke with more than 160 healthcare leaders in the public and private sectors in Europe and the Middle East. About 63 percent of healthcare businesses in the Middle East believe AI will have a major impact on their businesses within the next 10 years, according to the findings. However, only about 10 percent of those Middle Eastern businesses have started to implement AI solutions.  

When broken down, countries outside the Middle East were further ahead than others in adopting AI:

  • 54 percent of Turkish businesses believe AI will have a major impact within the next 10 years; 21 percent have begun implementing the technology.
  • 58 percent of Belgian businesses believe AI will have a major impact; 64 percent have started implementing AI technology.
  • 58 percent of Norwegian businesses believe AI will have a major impact; 17 percent have started to implement AI technology.
  • 58 percent of Swedish businesses believe AI will have a major impact; 22 percent have started implementing AI technology.
  • 64 percent of German businesses believe AI will have a major impact; 30 percent have started to implement AI technology.

The report also identified six areas healthcare businesses should address to successfully implement AI within their organization:

  1. Leadership and culture: Healthcare leaders should advocate for implementing AI and take action to encourage growth and investments in the technology.
  2. Workforce transformation: Through AI, the work environment will change, and it’s up to the healthcare sector to prepare and help educate the workforce.
  3. Clinical effectiveness: Healthcare organizations should focus on patient outcomes to ensure the design and clinical effectiveness of AI technologies.   
  4. Commercial investment: Healthcare leaders should begin investing in AI.
  5. Public readiness: Organizations should promote and focus on trust, as public readiness for AI in healthcare continues to increase.
  6. Regulation, ethics and confidentiality: Leaders should work to find the right balance between regulation and innovation and promote responsible AI.

“AI has the potential to revolutionize every aspect of the healthcare sector, with digital transformation and AI at the forefront of regional government’s strategic plans and on the agenda of healthcare leaders in the (Gulf Cooperation Council),” Hamish Clark, partner and Middle East health industries consulting leader at PwC, said in a prepared statement. “The economic benefits are clear and the technology is already here in our everyday lives. However, there is a significant implementation challenge which requires new skills and strong leadership.”