Healthcare has been one of the most dynamic industries in the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC), witnessing steep growth between 2007 and 2011 due to significant increase in the healthcare spending. Its robust growth is expected to continue, propelled by demographic and economic factors, resulting in increased demand. According to Frost and Sullivan estimates, Saudi Arabia remains the largest spender on healthcare in the GCC with expenditure recorded at $24.2 billion in 2011.
Saudi Arabia remains the largest spender on healthcare in the GCC with expenditure recorded at $24.2 billion in 2011
As a result of increased spending power, sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy food habits, nations in the GCC rank among the highest in the world with respect to lifestyle diseases; namely diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. Growth in chronic lifestyle-related diseases has further led to the increased healthcare spending in the GCC. Healthcare spending in the GCC witnessed compound annual growth rate CAGR of approximately 12 percent between 2007 and 2011.
Healthcare expenditure as a percentage of the gross domestic product 'GDP' remains low
Although healthcare spending has witnessed considerable growth in this period, healthcare expenditure as a percentage of the gross domestic product 'GDP' remained low. Among the GCC countries, Bahrain spent the highest percentage of its GDP, 5 percent, on healthcare; while Qatar spent the lowest, 2 percent, in 2011.
Even though Saudi Arabia has maximum healthcare spent among all the GCC economies, healthcare expenditure as a percentage of its GDP increased barely by 1.2 percent from 2000 to 2010. The burgeoning and rapidly-ageing population is another growth driver for the healthcare industry in the GCC. The life expectancy here has increased considerably, and is presently at par with developed countries like the United States of America. This increase in life expectancy can be attributed to improved treatment outcomes of controlling communicable diseases. "Growing demand and increasing emphasis on quality healthcare, coupled with regulatory changes, is expected to make the GCC healthcare market a lucrative option for both domestic and international investors.
Growing demand and increasing emphasis on quality healthcare, coupled with regulatory changes, is expected to make the GCC healthcare market a lucrative option for both domestic and international investors
Apart from healthcare delivery, healthcare insurance is also expected to provide enormous opportunities to private players in the GCC. In fact, increasing number of private players in the provider segment would lead to more people opting for private insurance to avail better-quality healthcare at affordable costs," said Dr. E. Saneesh, Research Analyst, Business and Financial Services 'Healthcare', Frost & Sullivan.
According to Frost & Sullivan's recent study on growing opportunities in the GCC healthcare sector, a critical challenge herein is the dual role played by the respective governments, of both payer and provider. The trend of increasing lifestyle diseases, characterized by frequent treatments, costly procedures, and quality healthcare has raised the cost burden on the respective Governments. The GCC also faces considerable shortage of physicians who can provide quality treatment as compared to other developing economies.
The Saudi Gazette