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.