The Evolving Healthcare Landscape in the Middle East: Moving towards Customer-Centricity
By David Mezher, General Manager, GE Healthcare Middle East, Pakistan & Iran
The healthcare industry, like a growing number of others, is being forced into customer-centricity. In the same way that companies like Uber, Airbnb and iTunes transformed the way consumers use taxis, lodging and music, the healthcare industry is beginning to adopt more outcomes-focused models that offer healthcare providers multiple means of offering high-quality care in the most economical way possible.
We’ve seen this transition ourselves as the needs of our customers across the continuum of care have evolved significantly. Not just five years ago, healthcare technology companies were focused purely on selling innovative equipment. With the addition of service contracts to sales agreements, maintenance and repair became a space where companies fought to deliver value.
In the Middle East, the population has doubled in the past ten years, a pattern that is set to repeat. Healthcare systems and the necessary infrastructure have not evolved at the same rate. But given current economic realities, Ministries of Health are no longer willing to pay the major upfront costs required to build and equip new hospitals or primary care clinics.
Certainly, budget constraints are part of the issue but governments also have seen that technology can be used to improve decision-making, operating efficiencies and deliver the high quality of care patients want and need. Moreover, Ministries of Health in the Middle East are reevaluating their mandates and we are seeing a transition from healthcare providers to regulators. These Ministries are increasingly looking to the private sector to assume a greater role in healthcare delivery as they turn their focus on accreditation, regulation and oversight that ensures a minimal level of quality care.
So as these governments turn to the private sector, companies like GE Healthcare are leading the charge, helping facilitate the delivery of better care in a much more efficient way.
Outsourcing is one of many models we’ve seen grow in popularity in the last several years. Through outsourcing, governments engage a private operator to equip, operate and maintain specific departments of a hospital, such as radiology. Some arrangements can include large consortiums that pool resources to operate large assets, such as an entire government hospital.
GE Healthcare has unique capabilities in this area. Through our global networks, we are making these deals happen – whether that is a public-private partnership to develop a greenfield specialized facility, a consortium to run an existing public hospital, or simply planning and equipping the newest expansion of a private sector hospital.
GE is the glue that brings all the parties together on these projects. We bring international operators and investors together with local operators and investors. We partner with high-quality EPC contractors, banks, and multilateral lending organizations, and at times can even contribute our own equity. GE’s “skin in the game” gives confidence to all parties.
We are certainly seeing growing interest in projects like this across the region.
Taking one step further, GE offers an innovative, customized version of the outsourcing model called a ‘outcomes-based’ solutions. This model can look to address the common problem of overspending that many hospitals face. So, what we do is commit over a fixed period, say two years, to deploy our teams to a specific department, such as radiology, and the customer gives us access to hospital processes and patient flow.
We then work with our customers to improve their systems to generate savings, which we’ve at times seen amount to over $10-20 million. The compensation schemes vary but the end results are clear: their operations are more efficient and they deliver a better patient experience.
Equipment and Technology
Even when it comes to technology and equipment purchases by public and private operators, we’re not taking an outdated transactional approach. We’re helping them understand their equipment requirements so they can better manage capital and operating expenses. More broadly, we are partnering with healthcare providers to improve the patient experience, helping them map out clinical pathways and organize other aspects of hospital development and operation. This includes leveraging the power of digital, big data and Industrial Internet of Things solutions built on GE’s digital-industrial expertise.
It’s clear that the needs of our customers today have changed fundamentally from what they were before. The transactional approach no longer makes sense. While this is creating opportunities for the private sector, it’s also helping governments achieve the results they have always wanted: better health outcomes, lower costs, and a more vibrant private sector.