According to estimates, healthcare spending across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is expected to grow to $144 billion by 2020, with GCC nations alone contributing around 52% of the total healthcare expenditure.
But with this in mind, an aging population and increasing demand for world-class medical facilities, what impact are digitisation and technology having on the healthcare sector? How can we improve response times, efficiency, reduce legacy system and ensure that the best care and expertise is provided on every level?
We spoke about this with Edward Gallagher, Managing Director – Integrated Services Serco Middle East and he provided some really insightful answers:
1-What exactly do you do as an integrated facilities management company for 10 hospitals in the region?
Serco does more than just integrated facilities management across our healthcare contracts. Our Health business is established on 3 pillars; Better Care, Better Environment, Better Value.
We provide a range of patient facing support services in hospitals to ensure that the environment in which patients are cared for is pleasant and safe. Our staff are trained in our unique ‘Serco Cares’ patient experience methodology that has a direct impact on patients’ positive mental attitude to improve their recovery times. We are different in that we understand the impact of our support services upon patient experience and patient flow and we innovate in this space to enable our clients to provide excellent patient care.
2- Which aspect of healthcare spending do you anticipate? Is it more hospitals, better equipment, new tech, more staff and training…?
I see a huge push to invest in health provision outside of the hospital environment. This includes primary and ambulatory care as well as significant investment in the digital space to enhance efficiency and provide alternative access to care options for patients. Applications and the Internet of Things will enable patients to access care closer to home – or even at home!
3- Why is the GCC more than half of MENA healthcare spending in your opinion?
These economies are richer and more stable, have clear visions for the delivery of their services and a desire to diversify their economies from carbon fuels. There’s a huge UAE and KSA focus on health tourism which is a good example of this.
4- How different are the needs of an aging population today compared to say 10 or 20 years back?
With cancer survival rates at their highest and rising, people are living longer so naturally their health challenges are changing. The rise of lifestyle non-communicable disease, mobility and the impact of dementia will change the requirements of the health system that supports this population.
5. What impact is digitisation having on the healthcare sector?
a) From a demand perspective on the patient side – In our information driven enabled world, digitisation is increasing demand and increasing the expectations of patients to a more consumer- oriented mindset to be served in short time frames. Patients expect to be able to interact and engage with health providers digitally too.
b) From the supply side coming from hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and service providers – Digitisation, particularly IoT is helping us to better understand and analyse the physical environment and enhance service performance. For example, being able to understand data behind patient flow, patient behaviour and patient experience, can help us, help our clients, unlock efficiency and continuously improve.
6- How are AI/ML being deployed across the supply chain and since when, and how is this improving your service to clients and theirs to patients?
AI and ML is being deployed in multiple ways. It helps Serco in engineering to keep hospitals open by predicting maintenance as well as saving costs and improving service reliability and safety for patients. It helps Serco plan logistics to ensure our services are more responsive, making sure patients are in the right place at the right time. We’re excited to see how it helps us with patient flow and patient experience as more and more data becomes available.
7- How does digitization help you improve response times, efficiency, and reduce the use of legacy systems?
It is all about data. Putting structure and reporting around our services and the physical environment helps us make sense of it and develop quantifiable improvement programmes with a strong factual base; helping investment decisions.