GE Healthcare: Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Healthcare Transformation
By Jalil Juha, President & CEO, GE Healthcare Saudi Arabia
Today in Saudi Arabia, the big buzzwords in healthcare include private sector participation, regulator not provider, and improved patient experience.
As these phrases suggest, we’re on the cusp of a major transformation of the sector in Saudi Arabia. In the wake of Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 – the government’s share of healthcare delivery is expected to go from about 75% down to 65% by 2020.
The big idea is that the private sector can be a major player in helping the government achieve its goals of improving patient care and outcomes, while at the same time reducing costs and improving efficiencies. Furthermore, the role of government will increasingly shift to that of a regulator, helping to manage a healthcare sector in a way that encourages private sector players and creates an environment that’s good both for patients and providers.
Excitement about 2018
Last month’s Arab Health conference in Dubai reinforced the general feeling of excitement about the future of Saudi healthcare. 2017 was seen as a time of intense focus by various ministries, including the Ministry of Health (MoH), working to develop the rules and regulations required to create the right environment to attract private investment and private operators from the region and internationally. 2018 is expected to see more initiatives come to market.
A big element of those initiatives is likely to be outsourcing. This could be as comprehensive as a private provider running an entire government hospital, or as contained as just running a single department, such as radiology or laboratory.
This option is particularly attractive given that the MoH has built a number of hospitals around the Kingdom that are ready to be operated, requiring only staffing and equipment. A private sector partner could enter into a public-private partnership with the government, or the MoH could directly lease it to a private operator for a certain time to run it on behalf of the MoH. Such partnerships will be built on KPIs with payments based on performance to insure the utmost level of care are provided while costs are controlled.
Saudi Arabia Leapfroging other Healthcare Systems
GE Healthcare is participating in support of the MoH efforts and the Saudi healthcare sector more broadly by bringing its healthcare consulting expertise, its network of relationships with local and international operators and investors, its work with health ministries around the world, and its technologies, to share best practice that could have the potential to help Saudi Arabia leapfrog technologies and practices through the learnings we’ve developed elsewhere.
We’re also helping to bridge the gap between international investors and local Saudi players to co-invest in providing certain outsourced services or coming as a consortium of partners to run a hospital on the MoH’s behalf.
Let me pause here, because what I’ve outlined above shows how different our role as GE Healthcare is today than it was just 3 or 5 years ago. Then, the demand in the market was driven very much by technology. There was an urgency to increase the number of beds and to improve the level of care, and having the latest technologies and equipment was a big part of this.
Today, things are more complicated. Governments are looking to improve care, but with an eye not only to budget constraints, but also to the notion that in healthcare, the private sector has a lot to offer.
As a result, what’s most valuable in the Saudi healthcare sector today is not just the most advanced and most efficient equipment, but also being able to bring investors, operators, equipment and financing together around a table to solve for desired outcomes around quality and affordable access to patients.
It Takes a Village
One good example of this is the Medical Village in Riyadh. As part of the real estate developer’s larger plan, GE is partnering- with Tatweer to create centralized radiology services and potentially other services for this “healthcare village,” which is attracting regional and international healthcare providers.
The pitch to these operators is simple: “You don’t need to invest any money. You don’t need to build facilities or even get a license. Tatweer have done all that. We just want you to bring your clinical experts and operational skills, and operate from our development.”
This type of project supports the government’s goal of increasing private sector participation by making it easier and more attractive for foreign operators to enter the market.
Even when the conversation with a client is about equipment and technology, the reality is that we need to do more than just deliver great equipment. For example, with the Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group’s (HMG) new hospitals, we’re collaborating with them, leveraging GE capabilities to help them create digital hospitals with a truly world-class patient experience that really moves the needle in terms of bringing the experience to a level not seen elsewhere.
We’re also collaborating with HMG to leverage digital technologies in novel ways. & We have partnered with HMG to create a centralized Tele-ICU Command & Control Center that connects all of HMG’s ICU beds across all of the group’s geographically distributed hospitals providing around-the-clock patient monitoring and leveraging a 24/7 intensive care coverage for their critical care patients. This concept is a first of its kinds in the region’s private healthcare sector. Within a year, the solution is helping standardize high quality of care in a timely manner to ICU patients across HMG hospitals while significantly containing costs.
The healthcare sector is being transformed in Saudi Arabia, and GE Healthcare is proactively preparing to address the Kingdom’s changing needs. We hope to remain a trusted partner to the MoH, supporting their efforts to develop new ways to improve services; we’re working with partners to leverage the role of the private sector in improving patient care in the Kingdom; and we’re helping customers to bring new tools, such as digital healthcare, to improve outcomes and operations.
It’s an exciting and hopeful time for Saudi Arabia, and we’re working to ensure everything that’s possible can be achieved.