Laurent Marini, MD of Orange Business Arabia and director of the board of Orange Business Arabia. Laurent Marini, MD of Orange Business Arabia and director of the board of Orange Business Arabia.

ICT and healthcare investments are converging to create connected-health opportunities in KSA. ICT investments are set to transform healthcare and improve life for Saudi Arabian citizens.

With the largest economy and population of all the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is the region’s biggest ICT market and healthcare market but both are relatively undeveloped and attracting significantly increased public and private sector investment, creating an opportunity for connected-healthcare convergence. This can transform the way healthcare is accessed and delivered, medical data shared, and put the patient firmly at the centre of the system.

In healthcare, KSA is currently under-served (2.2 beds per 1,000 population versus a global average of 2.7). This will change with more hospitals and more beds, in an increasingly urbanised society. According to SAGIA, public healthcare spending is expected to reach $20 billion a year by 2016. From an ICT perspective, the Kingdom has embarked on a 20-year plan to create access to technology and telecommunications, supported by deregulation and public investment.

Whilst still young, the population of around 29m is growing and will age with a longer life expectancy, and affluence is bringing its own challenges with chronic lifestyle disease, all leading to greater future demand for healthcare services.

ICT can help to make a qualitative leap forward, bringing new efficiencies along with cost reduction and improved management across the country’s healthcare system – serving more patients, more effectively, and more cost effectively.

What healthcare ICT solutions are there? Digital Hospital, Telehealth and mobile health (M-health) are all areas where ICT is making a difference in healthcare and which are helping healthcare systems reduce costs, improve effectiveness of disease prevention, and in patient monitoring and treatment delivery – within the hospital environment, connecting the hospital to the patient home, and even connecting to patients on the move.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Health is already making significant progress in deploying ICT in healthcare, creating and delivering new smart e-services from medical licenses to e-directories, Citizen Voice, Hajj Health Services (Eijad system), vaccination reminders and complaints. An interactive mobile phone based service updates subscribers on medicine, health and disease prevention, through daily SMS.

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