Gov­ern­ment bud­gets are in­creas­ingly com­ing un­der pres­sure amid fall­ing oil prices and this may in­flu­ence health­care spend­ing. High cost of med­i­cal treat­ment and lim­ited super-spe­cialised care in areas such as on­col­ogy and car­di­ol­ogy are driv­ing out­bound med­i­cal tourism. Dearth of lo­cal tal­ent to meet the re­quire­ment at health­care centres and high depen­dence on ex­pa­tri­ates. Pri­vate play­ers face en­try bar­ri­ers such as high cost of set­ting up a hospi­tal and high pay­back pe­riod. Also the cur­rent in­vest­ment cli­mate has made in­vestors across the globe more cau­tious and risk-averse. Lack of ho­mo­ge­neous reg­u­la­tions and ad­her­ence to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards have led to in­con­sis­ten­cies in the qual­ity of ser­vices.

The Supreme Coun­cil of Health of Qatar has laid down a Na­tional Health Strat­egy (NHS) for 2011-2016, aimed at de­vel­op­ing a world-class in­te­grated health­care sys­tem that of­fers high-qual­ity ser­vices, a skilled work­force, a na­tional health pol­icy, ef­fec­tive and af­ford­able care, and ad­vanced re­search. To achieve these ob­jec­tives, the gov­ern­ment is en­cour­ag­ing pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment.

As a part of its NHS, the gov­ern­ment launched a Health­care Fa­cil­i­ties Mas­ter Plan for 2013-2033, which iden­ti­fied the sup­ply gaps and the mea­sures to fill them. Such plans are ex­pected to strengthen Qatar's health­care sys­tem. There are sev­eral ini­tia­tives that are fo­cused on med­i­cal tourism which are likely to not only at­tract pa­tients from across the world but also re­duce the out­bound vis­its of ci­ti­zens for spe­cial­ized treat­ment, thereby aid­ing the growth of the health­care sec­tor in the re­gion. Rise of the PPP model: Pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment is be­com­ing im­per­a­tive to meet the ris­ing de­mand for health­care as well as to re­duce the bur­den of costs on the gov­ern­ment fi­nances. Gov­ern­ment poli­cies to in­crease in­sur­ance cov­er­age and pro­vide other in­fra­struc­ture sup­port as well as fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives are draw­ing in­vestors to the re­gion. Qatar's SCH, to­gether with the Min­istry of Econ­omy and Com­merce, has al­lot­ted five plots to build and op­er­ate hos­pi­tals un­der the PPP model.

In­creas­ing use of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy: Qatar is work­ing to­wards de­vel­op­ing an in­te­grated and se­cure na­tional eHealth sys­tem aimed at im­prov­ing ac­cess to care, sup­port­ing new mod­els of delivery, en­hanc­ing pa­tient safety, and en­abling a high-per­form­ing health­care sys­tem.

Ris­ing fo­cus on pre­ven­tive care: Grow­ing health aware­ness among the res­i­dents along with the GCC gov­ern­ments' ef­fort to im­prove the ba­sic health in­di­ca­tors is lead­ing to a shift from cu­ra­tive care to pre­ven­tive care. Fo­cus on the pre­ven­tion of dis­eases will not only im­prove the public health pro­file but can also help re­duce health­care ex­pen­di­ture and en­hance the qual­ity of care. Qatar has in­cluded pre­ven­tive health­care as one of the goals un­der its NHS 2011-2016. It also aims at bring­ing about the devel­op­ment of oc­cu­pa­tional health stan­dards as well as pro­grammes and strate­gies fo­cused on women and child health.

Long-term and post-acute care fa­cil­i­ties (LTPAC): The ris­ing preva­lence of chronic dis­eases along­side an an­tic­i­pated in­crease in the age­ing pop­u­la­tion is prompt­ing the need for long-term and post-acute care fa­cil­i­ties in the GCC re­gion. LTPAC fa­cil­i­ties of­fer med­i­cal as well as non­med­i­cal ser­vices to pa­tients with pro­longed ill­ness or dis­abil­ity that ren­ders them in­ca­pable of tak­ing care of them­selves for a long pe­riod. In the re­cent years, Qatar has also seen the launch of large LTC fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a LTC unit in Ru­mailah Hospi­tal and the Enaya Spe­cial­ized Care Cen­ter.

The Qatar Health Fa­cil­i­ties Mas­ter Plan in­cludes the devel­op­ment of two LTC fa­cil­i­ties be­tween 2015 and 2019 at an es­ti­mated cost of QR4.0 bil­lion ($1.1 bil­lion)

Strength­en­ing spe­cialised care, med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and re­search: Im­prove­ment in the stan­dard of liv­ing has in­creased the in­ci­dence of life­style-re­lated dis­eases in the GCC re­gion, cre­at­ing de­mand for spe­cialised centres and re­sources of care. As part of their ef­forts to boost in­vest­ments into the health­care sec­tor, the GCC gov­ern­ments are fo­cus­ing on pro­vid­ing more spe­cialised care centres.

The GCC na­tions are also en­gag­ing in re­search and strate­gic part­ner­ships to strengthen their health­care sys­tem.

In con­clu­sion, favourable so­cioe­co­nomic fac­tors cou­pled with the GCC gov­ern­ments' fo­cus on adopt­ing a pa­tient­cen­tric model and im­prov­ing the over­all delivery sys­tem will con­tinue to drive the growth of the GCC health­care in­dus­try.

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