Qatar’s WISH summit tackles ‘human-centred’ healthcare redesign

Global disease, mental health and fake drug detection spotlight at Doha’s innovative health summit.

Ali WISH conference
A panel discussion at the 2018 WISH Summit held on November 13-14 in the Qatari capital [Al Jazeera]

Doha, Qatar – About 2,000 healthcare professionals, government officials and innovators from more than 100 countries gathered to discuss medical innovation in areas such as viral disease, mental health and human-centred redesigns of global healthcare systems.

The gathering took place on November 13 and 14 as part of the 2018 World Innovation Summit for Health, (WISH), a component of Qatar Foundation’s mission to foster “evidence-based” ideas and practices in the medical field.

In one of the main sessions, panellists discussed innovative ways to redesign healthcare systems and the relationship between care provider and patient.

The approach seeks to redefine the relationship between healthcare institutions, doctors and patients to create more compassionate human-focused services where patients can participate and co-manage their own chronic diseases or health issues.

The panellists spoke of current healthcare systems where doctors assume an “all-knowing” role while patients are relegated to being “ignorant” and not having the chance to manage their own illnesses.

The WISH Summit innovation hub [Paul Cabellon] 
The WISH Summit innovation hub [Paul Cabellon] 

Unlike many healthcare systems that view patients as mere revenue streams, the new design aims to approach them as human beings. 

Aaron Sklar – a cofounder of Prescribe, a company that focuses on healthcare design – told Al Jazeera it’s important that regions such as the Middle East and Africa don’t replicate the same “broken pieces” of some Western medical systems.

Stacy Chang, executive director of design at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, said empowering patients with knowledge about their conditions would benefit everyone.

“Patients who can read and have better access to information and can better challenge their physicians would actually lower the costs,” said Chang.

Discussions on healthcare at the 2018 WISH Summit in Doha [Al Jazeera]
Discussions on healthcare at the 2018 WISH Summit in Doha [Al Jazeera]

In a session about viral Hepatitis B and C, a leading global health threat affecting hundreds of millions of people annually, panellists outlined the progress to eliminate the disease by 2030.

A report said the main barriers to meeting the goal of eliminating the disease is limited financial resources and lack of political commitment.

Detecting counterfeit drugs

Global Good, a sister organisation to the Bill Gates Foundation, showcased a handheld spectrometer used to analyse and detect counterfeit medication.

Maurizio Vecchione, executive vice president, told Al Jazeera his organisation works as a “translational medium”, facilitating technologies and health laboratories to “priority countries” such as Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia in Africa and others in Asia.

The spectrometer, one of  Global Good’s technical innovations aimed at addressing health needs, makes it easier to identify fake and substandard drugs that kill tens of thousands of people every year and contribute to the spread of endemic diseases in poor countries.

A spectrometer that detects fake drugs [Al Jazeera]
A spectrometer that detects fake drugs [Al Jazeera]

A pill is placed on top of the portable device, which communicates with an associated mobile phone to compare the medication to a stored database of drug properties. The test takes seconds, after which the user knows whether the medication is genuine or counterfeit.

Vecchione said Global Good uses a number of different business models to deliver its devices to the countries that need them, at times they use local manufacturers, which stimulates local businesses and jobs in countries with its healthcare services.

“What Bill [Gates] would often tell us is that we should look at the social impact and the need and not the budget,” said Vecchione.

Speakers in Doha included several high-profile personalities such as American gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, who discussed mental health issues, and HRH Princess Muna al-Hussein, the mother of King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @Ali_reports

Source: Al Jazeera