GCC governments have invested significantly in healthcare infrastructure in the past couple of decades. Evidently, healthcare cities and luxurious health complexes are mushrooming, raising the quality of medical services, and aspiring to establish the gulf region as a medical hub.
With a world leading infrastructure, the healthcare sector is ready for the future that will come with a new set of foreseen and unforeseen challenges, including a growing population and density, growing life expectancy, share of population over 65, changing lifestyle, and more.
Conversely, the upcoming trends in health-tech services illustrate a promising perspective, empowering patients to play an active role in health management at every stage of the treatment process. Meanwhile, technology advancements will have a-far-reaching impact that enables prevention, diagnostics, treatment, rehabilitation and care.
The changing demographics and epidemiological trends are the main factors contributing to the increasing healthcare demand in the gulf countries. However, transformation programs across larger economies, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are driving a fundamental change that aims to leapfrog the healthcare industry from an emerging market status to a market of opportunity and transformation.
Shifting Service Delivery
The expanding and ageing population, high prevalence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), rising cost of treatment and increasing penetration of health insurance are contributing to the higher costs in the industry. Navigating through these challenges requires a deeper look into personalised healthcare, developing a patient's "digital profile”. Several technologies are pushing the boundaries of traditional medicine and enabling the transition to personalised medicine and more customised treatments, including targeted and gene medicine, bionics and robotics technology, tissue engineering and 3D printing. Overall, the wave of innovation is expected to offer more personalised services and treatment options especially coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and massive data. This will usher the era of consumer-driven digital health that has been much talked about in the last decade.
We have recently conducted extensive research across 25 cities and identified trends that are shaping the future of healthcare. With digital and technology acting as fundamental shaping forces, five key trends stand out:
1. Patient empowerment
Patients will take an increasingly active role in the patient journey, leveraging access to their own health records and personal health analytics, home testing kits, personal electronic monitoring devices, etc. to shape their health and become a major component in the decision-making process.
Health systems will benefit from predictive diagnosis of diseases, supported by technologies such as AI-enabled risk profiling, epidemiological understanding of different districts and cities, and data analytics for targeted health screenings. This will be the foundation of predictive-preventive systems.
3. Personalised treatment
New technologies (e.g., tissue engineering and 3D printers) will enable personalised and more accurate treatment allowing the arrival of bespoke medicine; health systems will build and leverage a patient’s 'digital profile' to enable targeted treatment for individuals as well as populations with similar profiles.
4. Integrated delivery models
Significant shifts are underway, from in-patient to out-patient care, and the emergence of alternative patient friendly formats and seamless virtual health delivery networks, to home care and malls care, as well as other formats.
5. Healthcare Professional 4.0
Machine enabled diagnosis will facilitate a symbiosis between health professionals and AI, where digital image diagnostics, virtual reality, digital twins, and routine surgery will deliver greater value and better health results. 4.0 health professionals will require increased digital, cognitive and behavioral skills.
Rapid health technological advancements in the GCC result from the region’s agility to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic with an expedited rollout of technology-enabled solutions. Healthcare has witnessed a more prominent and disruptive change with a massive shift towards prevention rather than cure through Health-Tech solutions that are more data-driven and are creating efficiencies in operations, costs, and delivery of care. Moving forward, decision-makers may leverage these solutions at-scale by envisaging public-private partnerships with HealthTech start-ups, consequently driving growth across the servicing chain in the health sector.
By Jad Bitar, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)