The Dubai Health Authority (“DHA”) has taken an important step towards modernizing the Emirate’s healthcare industry with the passing of Administrative Resolution No. 30 of 2017 Concerning the Regulation of Telehealth Care Services (the “Telehealth Regulations”) earlier this year, which sets out minimum standards and requirements for the provision of telehealth services across Dubai.
Telehealth (also commonly known as telemedicine) concerns the use of digital technologies in providing healthcare services, allowing healthcare practitioners to offer their services to patients from remote locations, whether by means of video conferencing or other modes of digital communication.
The Telehealth Regulations list the items required for submission with any application to the DHA for a permit to carry out telehealth care services, as well as the basic requirements that must be satisfied before such permit will be issued. They also set minimum standards for both the facilities where telehealth care services are to be carried out, and for the healthcare practitioners who are to provide such services.
The provision of telehealth care services is likely to involve cooperation between facilities whereby a patient would attend at a local facility for a scheduled teleconsultation with a specialist located at another facility somewhere far away. As such, the Telehealth Regulations also set out requirements for cooperation between telehealth facilities licenced in Dubai and remote facilities located in other Emirates or abroad, including accreditation requirements that must be met by such remote facilities.
Telehealth care services are not appropriate in all cases, and the Telehealth Regulations set out guidelines for determining whether such services are suitable for any individual patient.
One of the major concerns that has emerged in relation to telehealth in general, is the potential risk associated with the digital transmission of patient records. As such, creating reliable safeguards for the protection of sensitive patient data was one of the primary objectives for introducing a modern legal framework. Accordingly, the Telehealth Regulations require adequate measures be taken by telehealth care providers to ensure the protection of patient data and privacy.
The Telehealth Regulations also contain detailed requirements concerning the provision of online pharmacy services, and there are restrictions on the types of medications that can be dispensed, as well as conditions for the verification of medical prescriptions.
The Telehealth Regulations provide a useful framework for the development of telehealth care services in Dubai. This is a welcome development that will help the healthcare sector to meet the increased demand for healthcare services, which accompanies growing population and the rise in medical tourism. Furthermore, it is hoped that telehealth care services will aid in reducing healthcare costs and provide greater flexibility in the sector for patients and healthcare professionals alike.