According to international management consultancy Roland Berger, Saudi Arabia’s population of over 50 years of age is estimated to reach approximately 10 million people by 2030. A growing elderly population increases the prevalence of chronic health conditions, especially cardiovascular diseases, which also happens to be one of the leading causes of death in the country.
A significant challenge facing the healthcare system in the country is the accessibility to primary care and the lack of integration between primary care and other health sectors. Despite these shortcomings, the region is constantly working towards providing consumer-centric solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in changing the healthcare landscape in the region, with the industry increasingly embracing digital technologies to enhance the patient experience and improve the quality of care. The adoption of digital tools revolutionised healthcare delivery, especially in monitoring chronic diseases among the elderly, providing accurate diagnoses and administering effective treatments.
Telemedicine platforms also gained prominence during the pandemic, with few start-ups successfully providing digital health services. For example, founded in 2016, the Cura app provides on-demand health and wellness services. The platform offers users instant consultations with doctors around the clock, e-prescriptions and six- to eight-week programmes to treat depression, stress, chronic illnesses, nutrition and other health issues. Since its launch, over 4,500 doctors have been registered on this platform and have served around 350,000 users.
Nala, another fast-growing start-up and Saudi’s first-ever AI platform in Arabic, was launched in 2019 with the aim of helping manage chronic health conditions effectively. The app offers tailored digital care programmes, virtual access to dedicated doctors, Bluetooth health devices, and prescription delivery.
All of these developments emphasise how digital health is a rapidly growing industry. According to Global Market Insights, it is set to be worth US$504.4 billion by the end of 2025.
Several mHealth applications, like Mawid and Tabaud, provide virtual healthcare solutions, thus eliminating the need to visit a hospital or clinic physically. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has also introduced the SEHA app in the region. It provides visual medical consultations and allows all citizens anywhere to have face-to-face medical consultations with their doctors across the Kingdom.
The concept of ‘express clinics’ within pharmacy stores is also rapidly picking pace in the region. Currently open across stores in Jeddah, these clinics offer instant primary care services ranging from consultation, measuring blood glucose and blood pressure, skincare analysis, weight management and vaccination.
On a global scale, British company Helicon Health is in talks with the Saudi, Qatar and UAE governments to try and bring their remote monitoring technology for early stroke detection and prevention to the region. Applying machine learning to electronic health records (EHRs), the technology helps identify patients who are unwell with an acute illness but are not receiving the right treatment.
As the digitisation of healthcare continues, adopting these solutions will improve clinical outcomes, streamline workflows, help leaders manage healthcare spending, improve performance, and deliver integrated health services effectively.
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