Saudi Arabia's median age is just shy of 31, and 63 per cent of its population is under 30. This suggests that the kingdom’s workforce is poised for a huge tranche of young talent. As the Saudi economy aims to pivot away from its traditional oil-centric foundation, the healthcare sector surfaces as an ideal environment for professional growth and robust economic outcomes.
Driven by both domestic demand and regional medical tourism trends, healthcare in Saudi Arabia is on an upward swing, with revenue projected to reach US$333.30 million this year. However, according to a new estimate, Saudi Arabia will require an additional 175,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals by 2030 to address shortages and meet the healthcare needs of its rising population. The Saudi government's substantial investments in healthcare infrastructure, technological innovation, and educational upliftment have fomented a climate ripe for young talent to venture into an array of healthcare roles.
Advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, telemedicine, and data analytics, are transforming the way healthcare services are delivered, improving patient outcomes, and increasing efficiency. As a result, new career opportunities are emerging, requiring a blend of technical skills and healthcare expertise.
The demand for skills in Saudi Arabia’s workforce is rapidly shifting from traditional studies in the humanities and behavioural science to subjects like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Mansoor Ahmed, Colliers Executive Director (MEA) and Head of Development Solutions explains that evidence-based Research & Development (R&D) studies are gaining popularity in tandem with Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation agenda in Vision 2030 and changing market demand. “This will reduce the ‘mismatch’ of degrees attained and the requirements of the employment market,” he says.
When it comes to access to quality healthcare, Ahmed stresses the value of human capital. “Without the availability of qualified and specialised human resources, even the best medical facilities with the most advanced medical equipment are not enough. The demand will be even higher as a part of the Saudization drive in the healthcare sector as the majority of these jobs must be filled by Saudi nationals.”
Seventy-three per cent of the kingdom’s current healthcare workforce are foreign nationals so getting young Saudi talent into these professions is crucial for the sector’s growth.
As Saudi Arabia adopts new medical technologies, training programmes and short courses can potentially plug the skills gap in areas like AI, data analytics, robotic medicine, genome sequencing and other cutting-edge health tech. Since 2021, Saudi Arabia has invested US$3.9 billion in R&D and in state-of-the-art biotech clusters like the Saudi Human Genome Program and the Saudi Network for Clinical Trials.
“Biotechnologies, with their ability to develop groundbreaking technologies and medical products, can revolutionise not just the national non-oil economy, but everything from the chemicals industry to agriculture, food security, and human health,” says Dr. Walid Tohme, Partner with PWC’s Strategy& Middle East.
The scale of investment and regulatory development already implemented in Saudi Arabia are already helping to streamline the country’s capacity for trials, testing, and bioethics – and the nation’s educational ecosystem is ahead of the curve.
Strategy&’s research shows that 47 per cent of entry-level jobs in biosciences require advanced degrees, compared with 27 per cent in other industries. This high barrier to entry may dissuade young people from exploring careers in this space. The research suggests that there is a limited focus on the skill sets required to sustain a tech-driven healthcare sector. To supply this growing demand, Saudi Arabia may need to channel significant investments into promoting world-class education, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
To prepare young people for tech-driven healthcare careers, collaboration between educational institutions and industry is crucial. Healthcare companies can partner with universities and vocational training centers to develop specialised programmes that equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge. These programmes should incorporate hands-on training, internships, and mentorship opportunities to bridge the gap between academic learning and real-world practice.
The future of healthcare careers in Saudi Arabia lies in the intersection of technology and healthcare expertise. As the country strives to achieve its Vision 2030 goals, there is a pressing need to empower the youth and prepare them for tech-driven healthcare roles. By investing in education, promoting digital literacy, providing mentorship, and creating a supportive work environment, healthcare companies can enable young professionals to thrive in this rapidly evolving sector.
Emerging tech-driven healthcare jobs
Health Informatics Specialists
Health informatics is a rapidly growing field that combines healthcare, information technology, and data analytics. Health informatics specialists manage and analyse data to improve patient care, enhance operational efficiency, and drive evidence-based decision-making. They are responsible for designing and implementing health information systems, ensuring data security and privacy, and using data to identify trends and patterns.
Telemedicine practitioners use technology to provide remote diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients. They conduct virtual consultations, review medical records, and prescribe medications, leveraging video conferencing, mobile apps, and remote monitoring devices. Telemedicine practitioners need a strong understanding of medical principles, excellent communication skills, and proficiency in using telehealth platforms.
Medical Robotics Engineers
Medical robotics is widely used in surgical procedures, diagnostics, and rehabilitation. In Saudi Arabia, there is a growing demand for skilled engineers who can design, develop, and operate medical robots. These professionals work closely with healthcare providers to develop robotic systems that improve surgical precision, reduce recovery time, and enhance patient outcomes. Medical robotics engineers need a background in engineering, robotics, and healthcare to bridge the gap between technology and medicine.
Data Analysts in Healthcare
As the healthcare sector generates vast amounts of data, the need for skilled data analysts who can derive actionable insights from this data is essential. Data analysts are responsible for collecting, organising, and analysing healthcare data to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. They work closely with healthcare professionals to develop data-driven strategies, optimise resource allocation, and enhance patient care. A strong background in data analytics, statistics, and healthcare is essential for success in this role.
This article appears in the latest issue of the Omnia Health Magazine, read more here