Explainer: Understanding the impact of Covid-19 on the GCC's healthcare sector
Gulf Business|February 2021
Healthcare providers have been forced to upgrade to new technologies and improve efficiencies
Dr Fatih Mehmet Gul

What has been the impact of the pandemic on the GCC’s healthcare industry?

The pandemic has had a profound effect on all sectors. For the healthcare sector in the region, the pandemic precipitated the need to upgrade existing infrastructure and adopt remote patient management technologies on a larger scale. Covid-19 placed unparalleled demands on healthcare providers, who were not ready to deliver care without getting patients to the hospital.

But while the pandemic has most certainly disrupted the healthcare industry, it has proven to be very agile in responding to the situation, with many providers championing innovation and reevaluating their business model. The GCC has seen a significant increase in the integration of digital healthcare solutions in hospitals. In the UAE, the Ministry of Health and Prevention recorded nearly 50,000 virtual hospital visits as of the end of Q3 2020.

The response was truly amazing, and I believe this will make history.

Do you think the industry was prepared to deal with the sudden shift in dynamics – including remote consultations and the use of new tech?

The real challenge the industry faced at the beginning of the pandemic was managing the extraordinary numbers of patients with the limited number of available caregivers. Nobody was entirely prepared for that. Hospitals deploy and use their resources following a ratio devised on patients’ forecast numbers. With Covid, hospitals saw an unpredicted surge of patients. This meant providers had to rethink how to make their services accessible to more patients, implement new technology, but also learn very quickly how to utilise it to manage the high numbers of patients.

In our Saudi operations, remote patient monitoring systems have been crucial to manage large numbers of Covid patients with the same number of medical teams that we had on the ground. When the UAE government informed us that they were setting up field hospitals, we did not hesitate to lend our medical equipment, ventilators, and beds to alleviate the pressure on the system.

In your view, what are the main challenges facing the sector at present?

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