Healthcare opportunities in Saudi Arabia

The government is benevolent to the extent that it pays for all medical charges even outside the country if it is deemed necessary for a patient to travel abroad for advanced healthcare facilities.

Saudi’s healthcare system is comprised of three service providers – the Ministry of Health hospitals, government hospitals and private hospitals. However, gaps are evident in the services offered to the people.

The kingdom is projected to require 15,888 beds in 2018, accounting for almost 50% of total requirements in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The health ministry has commissioned few projects to bridge the gap in healthcare infrastructure, so given the increase in demand it is vital that private players’ participation is encouraged – otherwise health infrastructure might lag behind.

In terms of financial stimulus, the government can choose from multiple options to offer incentives to private players. Public private partnership projects are expected to be the show-starter for improving private participation in various sectors in the kingdom.

One such PPP project is the Saudi Trans Sadara Company and China International Development and Investment Corporation Limited (CIDIC) joint venture to build four private hospitals in Dammam, Jubail, Riyadh, and Jizan, with a total project cost of $350m. These hospitals are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2017.

A growing population and increasing instances of lifestyle related diseases opens up a huge market with an expected decline in government support for healthcare in the coming years.

Saudi Arabia, with its well-established ICT infrastructure, offers an excellent meeting place for IT solutions to enhance healthcare services offered.

Saudi’s e-Health policy aims to implement a programme to achieve its vision of a safe, efficient health system, based on the care centred on a patient, standard-oriented, and supported by the e-Health.

Saudi Arabia requires compulsory health insurance for expatriates and visitors, but not locals. But locals are being encouraged to buy health insurance so they rely less on state healthcare.

According to Marmore’s report on Saudi healthcare, future demand is almost certain to grow, so private sector participation is set to increase.

The current situation presents a need as well as an opportunity for the development of private healthcare in Saudi Arabia.