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Saudi Vision 2030: Kingdom prepares itself to become the next healthcare giant

The Saudi government has identified the necessity of building a world-class infrastructure

‘Saudi Vision 2030’ is a strategic framework to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and develop public service sectors. Kingdom’s healthcare market plays a huge role in terms of ensuring an all-round economic diversification.

The country has adopted a ‘Health Sector Transformation Program’, under which it aims to restructure the sector as a comprehensive, effective and integrated one, catering to both the individuals and Saudi society.

The Saudi government has also identified the necessity of building a world-class infrastructure and for this, it has turned to the private sector with a USD 66 billion investment.

An April 2021 report by Frost & Sullivan and Mashreq Bank said that the investment would eye scaling up the private sector participation in the healthcare sector from 40% to 65%. Around 40-50% of the total investment would likely be on infrastructure until 2025 with a focus on digital solutions and medical consumables. After 2025, catering to implant procedure-related needs will be catered to by the administration.

The Saudi government has also developed a virtual platform which is a single location for relevant healthcare information, certifications and regulations with the aim of improving investor experience.

This platform has brought together over 120 hospitals and clinics in Jeddah and around the Kingdom.

Investments from big players

Healthcare players like 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, as they predict a demand growth in coming years.

Dubai-based Gulf Islamic Investments LLC (GII) in 2022 acquired a majority stake in Almeswak Dental Clinics, the Kingdom’s largest provider of dental and dermatology care. The whole deal was worth USD 530 million.

In the same year, Saudi Venture Fund (SVC) invested USD 10 million in TVM Capital Healthcare’s Afiyah Fund, which would invest in innovative healthcare companies across the Kingdom.

In March 2023, Olayan Financial Company (OFC), represented by Olayan Saudi Holding Company (OSHCO), and Austrian healthcare firm Vamed Group, partnered to open a new rehabilitation and long-term care hospital in Saudi with a 150-bed capacity.

Faisal Durrani, Knight Frank’s partner and head of research in the Middle East, said in 2022 that the Kingdom is planning to build medical facilities worth USD 13.8 billion by 2030.

The Kingdom also reportedly allocated about 14.4% of its 2022 budget to healthcare and social development, which amounted to USD 36.8 billion, the third largest expense after education and military, according to Dubai-based Omnia Health, a global medical directory.

The administration has invested in health clusters across the Kingdom, increasing the number of internationally accredited hospitals, doubling the number of primary healthcare visits per capita from two to four and expanding digital healthcare innovation, as per Omnia Health.

According to Colliers International, an investment management entity, Saudi will need an additional 20,000 hospital beds by 2030 to tackle shortages and meet the needs of its growing population. The numbers are based on the Kingdom’s rapid expansion plans to host significant infrastructure projects.

“A community needs four to six beds per 1,000 population above 65 years, implying that the Kingdom will require between 6,400 and 9,600 beds dedicated to long-term care. This demand is expected to reach 41,200 to 61,800 LTC beds by 2050,” Colliers International commented in its outlook.

“It is estimated that Saudi Arabia will require between 1.64 and 3.05 physicians and nurses per 1,000 population to provide health services in 2030,” stated Omnia Health.

Saudi’s digital healthcare strategy

The Kingdom is touted as the fastest-growing digital health market among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The Saudi government has reportedly allocated USD 1.5 billion for healthcare information technology and digital transformation programs.

Saudi Health Minister Fahad Al-Jalajel said in 2022 that digital technologies were one of the essential tools for dealing with the COVID outbreaks, as the country developed the first interactive map of virus transmission data. This innovation helped healthcare professionals to get accurate statistics on the pandemic status in the Kingdom and employ Artificial Intelligence to make strategic decisions.

“Another significant goal is highlighting the importance of health information technology and its influential role in improving performance efficiency, the quality of services, and the optimal use of resources,” Fahad Al-Jalajel commented.

Powered by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah International Medical Research Center now uses high-performance computing to aid its complex research into a potential treatment for infectious diseases.

Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G are transforming the Kingdom’s healthcare sector. These innovations are helping the country to excel in parameters like monitoring patients in remote areas, offering critical early interventions, improving efficiency and reducing costs.

According to Omnia Health, 5G will enable possibilities like augmented reality surgery, robotic-assisted surgery, connected ambulances, after-surgery care and remote patient monitoring.

In February 2022, the Kingdom’s first virtual hospital was launched. SEHA Virtual Hospital has a live network of 130 affiliated healthcare facilities, thus becoming the largest of its kind in the world.

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