6 areas of healthcare to watch in GCC

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Healthcare spending in the GCC is going to grow exponentially, says a new EY report.

Global professional services firm EY is predicting that by 2020 the GCC healthcare market will reach $69 billion.

In particular there will a focus on mobile health apps, home-based diagnostic and physiotherapy services.

“GCC countries continue to rank among the highest in the world on risk factors related to chronic lifestyle ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions and obesity,” said EY partner Amit Zushi in a statement.

Indeed, the Arab region is transitioning away from being a place where infectious diseases are the main cause of death and towards diseases common in the West.

Back in 2013 US-based research center Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published a report with the World Bank saying this exact thing, too. And sadly the numbers for lifestyle diseases are continuing to rise.

To give more recent insight into what areas of healthcare need to be addressed, and how, EY released their Investment Big Bets – Healthcare and Life Sciences in the GCC’  report at January’s Arab Health Exhibition & Congress.

The six areas that they say will see high growth and high demand are specialized centers of excellence (CoEs); home health care services; long-term and post-acute care rehabilitation (LTPAC); biotechnology; medical disposables manufacturing; and primary care services.

If a lot of that seems like garbled nonsense, don’t worry, here’s the breakdown on what that means and the MENA startups who are involved.

Primary care services

These are basically the front line services, your GPs, your accident and emergency departments, those people and places patients first meet when looking for advice or treatment. According to EY, “within the GCC countries, integrated technology enabled primary healthcare centers are the need of the hour”.

Who’s offering it?

THCC, out of Tunisia, operates health centers.

Vezeeta, a platform that links patients with doctors in Egypt.

GraviLog, a healthcare app provider out of Jordan.

Specialized centers of excellence (CoEs)

A CoE is a place where people suffering from a particular disease will receive specialized care. EY says that most GCC public hospitals are functioning at over 80 percent bed capacity, which is putting pressure on the private sector and specialized clinics to serve more patients.

In KSA, between 2008 and 2013, the number of hospitals grew from 354 to 404. In the UAE also the increase has been 62 in 2008 to 72 in 2013.

And where are the CoEs most likely to be focusing? According to EY: oncology, orthopedics and cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and endocrinology (diabetes).

Who’s offering it?

There’s the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, “a fully digital hospital focused on lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It has infrastructure for minimally invasive robotic surgeries,” says EY.

Home healthcare services

These are either medical services in a patient’s home with the help of doctors, nurses, home health aids, everything from speech therapy to post-surgical care at home. It can also include medical services provided through ‘telehealth’ services, in which a patient can connect virtually through apps or devices for remote consultations or monitoring of a patient’s condition.

“By 2020, $3.5-4.8 billion could potentially be spent on home health care services across the GCC,” says EY.

Who’s offering it?

Shezlong, the therapy service from Egypt.

AlemHealth from UAE.

Some established providers in operation include Home Care Center in Qatar and Manzil Home Services in Abu Dhabi.

LTPAC rehabilitation services

This is ‘long-term’ and ‘post-acute care rehabilitation’ for patients.

Again, with an ageing population the numbers of those needing LTPAC is growing and at the moment, according to EY, the GCC is too small to meet the growing demand. They say 20-30 percent of public hospital beds in the GCC are being occupied by LTPAC patients.

Who’s offering it?

EY lists companies operating in this sector that include Cambridge Medical & Rehabilitation Center, UAE. Amana Healthcare and Rochester Wellness (recently acquired by Al Noor Hospital Group). In there is Sukoon, an extended care services provider based in Jeddah with planned facilities in Riyadh (the Amanat Fund recently took a 35 percent stake in the company).


Globally, says the EY report, biopharmaceuticals are forecasted to have a growth rate of 7 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2014 to 2018, while that of conventional drugs is expected to grow at a much lower 2.9 percent.

The GCC region has strong infrastructure in place for the creation of a sizeable pharmaceutical manufacturing base. EY speculates the GCC biopharmaceutical market could grow at 10.9 percent CAGR.

Who’s offering it?

Dubiotech in the UAE, Jeddah Biocity Park and Badir for biotechnology in Saudi Arabia, and UAE-based biotech company AccuVis Bio.

Medical disposables

The global medical disposables market is valued at $52 billion. The sector within GCC is import driven, with most supplies coming from the US. Now, according to EY there is a great opportunity for the region to be building this market themselves. “Needles, catheters and syringes are the top three product categories in terms of value,” they say.

Who’s offering it?

BioBusiness in Egypt, an R&D center for design, prototyping and development of tech advanced medical equipment. Ziad Abu Ayyash in Jordan has created and patented a cannula for safe needlestick use.

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