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Saudi Vision 2030: Kingdom eyes leadership role in advanced healthcare systems

Saudi Arabia is entering a new era of technology-driven healthcare solutions that make healthcare more accessible

As Saudi Arabia implements ‘Vision 2030’, digital transformation and a substantial overhaul of goals and policies will revolutionise its healthcare sector. A comprehensive reform path is underway to make Saudi Arabia a world leader in healthcare by ‘Vision 2030’.

As the country’s population grows from 33.5 million in mid-2018 to 39.5 million in mid-2030, the government’s healthcare system is facing many challenges.

In 2015, 30% of the Kingdom’s population was foreign, and this will climb as it attracts international enterprises, foreign direct investment, and tourists.

The Ministry of Health’s Vision Realisation Office (VRO) manages the Healthcare Transformation Strategy, which outlines a plan to overcome these challenges following international standards.

The Ministry of Health, Saudi Health Council, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Saudi Food and Drug Authority, Saudi Red Crescent Authority, and the Ministry of VRO policy themes include financial reforms, workforce development, digital transformation, and provider reform.

The ‘2022 Health Area Transformation Programme’ seeks to improve healthcare services and focus on this crucial area. The ‘Health Sector Transformation Programme’ originally focused on mitigating the effects of the COVID pandemic upon the Kingdom’s population, healthcare structure and broader socio-economic set-up.

Understanding The Blueprint

High regional and international rates of avoidable injury and non-communicable disease are among the programme’s core problems. Goals include raising life expectancy from 75 to 80 years by 2030 and reducing preventable death and morbidity in working and elderly people. Focus topics include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, mental health, road traffic accidents, and congenital diseases.

The health sector has improved quality, efficiency, and access through digital transformation. It also introduced Sehhaty and Mawid and expanded service to all Saudi Arabian regions.

Saudi Arabia is entering a new era of technology-driven healthcare solutions that make healthcare more accessible. The Kingdom’s Ministry of Health, known as Mawid, scheduled over 67 million appointments in 2020, while the government’s digital platform ‘Sehatty’ and the 937-call centre offered 8.6 million medical consultations.

Saudi Arabia placed top in the Arab world and 21st overall in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2021 World Happiness Report. The annual report on population health and happiness is a vital indication of a nation’s prosperity.

The ‘Health Transformation Programme’ will enable comprehensive sector transformation and restructuring into a comprehensive, effective, and integrated system to address key issues like medication access, inconsistent care delivery, and inconsistent clinical guidelines.

The initiative prioritises public health and illness prevention, optimal coverage, comprehensive and equitable geographical distribution, and e-health services.

Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in improving its population’s health over the past few decades, particularly in child and maternal mortality and communicable disease reduction, but concern areas remain.

Controlling communicable diseases at Hajj and after natural and man-made calamities is one of the factors to consider.

With expenditures across the Kingdom to improve secondary and tertiary hospital distribution and resources, the Ministry of Health is poised to expand its rehabilitation, long-term care, and home care mechanisms. Services will be distributed more widely in the rural areas.

The health sector will financially assist governmental expenditure control and Saudi economic diversification. This addresses the danger of long-term crude oil price drops and their impact on state finances. To correspond with broad reforms, the next phase will focus on attracting investment.

The Road Ahead

As the system evolves, it will be crucial to hire more Saudis to match the population size and lead healthcare into a new era of digitisation.

Since the programme began, the number of Saudi healthcare professionals has increased by 65%, bringing new talent to further the mission. Health Holding Corporation (HHC), Saudi Arabia’s new government-appointed healthcare holding corporation, with a broad mandate to digitise and improve the Kingdom’s healthcare system.

The HHC will take over from the Ministry of Health and provide medical services and care through emerging health clusters, and autonomous enterprises that specialise in specific services.

Many population achievements demonstrate the programme’s success. With top-down encouragement of sport from local access to international competitions, the Kingdom is pushing for a more active generation.

New data shows that weekly sports participation has increased by 37% between 2015 and 2019, with female participation up 149%. A new push toward a healthy, active nation has more than 130,000 people playing sports regularly.

The country’s health and tourism sectors have also improved pilgrims’ experiences with new health insurance and pandemic lessons. Saudi Arabia plans to welcome 30 million Umrah pilgrims by 2030 with enhanced procedures.

The system’s progress has seen emergency medical care within four hours grow from 26% in 2016 to 87% in 2020.

Hospital satisfaction rose from 81.5% in 2019 to 84.0% in 2020. Life expectancy increased from 72.6 years in 2000 to 75 years in 2018, and primary care satisfaction increased from 73% in 2018 to 80.52% in 2020.

The focus is on improving patient care with standardisation plans and more digitalisation techniques to quantify and manage resources, activity levels, product quality, and performance.

The European Centre for Digital Competitiveness ranked the country second in the world for continuous digital infrastructure investment, highlighting these advancements.

Since the creation of a National Digital Transformation Unit, Saudi Arabia’s public and private sectors have invested about USD 15 billion in ICT infrastructure, according to PWC.

Recent developments show that the country is ready for foreign investment, with privatisation targets and demand drivers creating new market opportunities for private players and healthcare investors.

Major private healthcare players like Saudi German Health, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group, and King’s College Hospital have already announced plans to open or expand services in the Kingdom, forecasting demand growth.

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