Business & Technology Review

Putting wealth into health

Ahmed Abo Al Fadl


Last updated on April 21, 2021 at 11.49 am
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It is said that health is wealth; this age-old adage has been reiterated time and again, but it was never as relevant as it is today. Over the past year, the mantra 'putting more wealth into health' has taken precedence, opening the path for healthcare investments.

In the GCC, the way the healthcare sector has been booming is exemplary. The region has seen some tremendous developments in this sector, with the UAE being a major contributor. Looking at the way Gulf countries deal with the pandemic; the world's attention was naturally drawn to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector of the region and the potential that it holds.

One of the major changes that the region's healthcare sector witnessed in 2020 was the need to fully embrace the digital route. The switch was a sudden, imperative and a true test of where the level of investments in the sector stands and what the approach should be to further boost it. The focus of healthcare investments quickly jumped from physical infrastructure to digitisation. There has been an increased need to further empower the existing infrastructure with digital capabilities so that any such outbreaks can be dealt with in a more efficient, well-coordinated, and operative manner.

Through its focus on pharma economics, the healthcare sector within the region, has a fair understanding of innovative concepts, like telehealth, and was prepared to take up the challenges in a swift and controlled manner compared to many other countries in the world.

Research has shown that the cost of regional healthcare rose and will continue to rise. An Alpen report found that in 2020, gross medical inflation rates ranged between 3.5 per cent and 9.1 per cent in GCC countries.

The same report also suggests that five investment-focused areas will dominate the sector in the coming years, such as intensive care; digital infrastructure, including AI; and big-data analytics automation.

One of the most exemplary countries in terms of an effective response to the virus remained the UAE, especially as healthcare is one of the nation's fastest-growing industries, and this growth was tested during these times.

The sector witnessed significant pressure on various aspects ranging from operations to distribution and quality care, and in the UAE, there are some lessons to be learnt from its response to the pandemic and the challenges it induced, especially upon the healthcare sector.

The healthcare policies, the preparedness of organisations in health and the pharma sector to deal with disruptions, and investments in the supply chains all paid off, making the UAE one of the fastest countries in the world to set up an infrastructure to help people in need and maintain the well-being of society. With foreign direct investments (FDI) at heart, investment recovery measures in the UAE were more inclusive and resilient.

The future looks bright for the regional healthcare sector. According to IMF, the regional rebound will be marked by a GDP jump of 2.3 per cent and 3.5 per cent in 2021 and 2022 after which the situation is anticipated to normalise.

However, as the region is set to further strengthen the healthcare sector through the adoption of technology, relevant operational strategies and wise investments, it is clear, therefore, that due to the pandemic, there has been an apparent shift in the investment priorities in the Gulf's healthcare landscape; digital has now become the way forward.

Research has shown that the cost of regional healthcare rose and will continue to rise. An Alpen report found that in 2020, gross medical inflation rates ranged between 3.5 per cent and 9.1 per cent in GCC countries.