Improving access to quality healthcare and building a world-class infrastructure is a key pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Like its GCC counterparts, the country has seen growing demand for improved local healthcare services. The net impact on medical travel will be a reduction of outbound medical tourism and an increase in inbound medical tourism to the country.
The transformation has been spurred on by changes that include an increasing and ageing population, a growing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity and a strategic shift away from economic dependence on oil.
The Saudi government needs the private sector. And it sees the need to build a sustainable and competitive healthcare environment to enable this. Saudi Arabia’s budget for healthcare is growing at 5-7% per year.
Healthcare is actively aligning with Vision 2030 and, seeing the potential cost efficiencies; the government and private sector are both involved in healthcare digitalisation at a rapid pace.
Through Vision 2030, the Saudi Health Ministry has shifted from being both the regulator and the operator to being just a regulator and gradually assigning the operations to the private sector.
In April 2021, a report by Frost & Sullivan and Mashreq Bank said that the kingdom plans to invest US$66bn in healthcare infrastructure, scaling private sector participation from 40% to 65%. In the same year, the government introduced a new law directing all sectors to develop their privatisation strategies.
Major private healthcare players including Saudi German Health, Dr Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group and King’s College Hospital have announced plans to open or expand services in the kingdom, forecasting a growth in demand locally.
Insurance is a key part of the overall healthcare story, as the government is taking steps to have 100% of Saudi citizens covered by mandatory health insurance.
There is a growing focus on preventative care, specialised clinics and primary healthcare to deal with the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases.