Last week one of the Middle East’s major healthcare exhibitions took place at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Hospital Build and Infrastructure Middle East Exhibition and Congress 2013 attracted influential healthcare players from around the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and beyond. It provided the opportunity for delegates to take the pulse of the healthcare industry in the Middle East and to learn more about innovation and best practice from leading global healthcare experts.
Much of the debate and discussion around the Exhibition Centre focused on how healthcare authorities, healthcare providers (both public and private), investors and all those engaged in the health industry can meet the massive increase in demand. The anticipated demand over the next decade will need to be met through the design and operation of future-proofed healthcare systems and the infrastructure that supports them to ensure sustainable quality and cost-effective healthcare outcomes.
The last few years have seen a major investment and expansion in the healthcare industry across the region. According to the Congress’s organisers, the GCC healthcare industry is expected to spend an estimated US $44 billion by 2015, rising to US $60 billion by 2025 from its estimated size of US $ 28.9 billion in 2011. By 2025 demand for hospital beds in the GCC is stated to more than double, requiring almost 162,000 beds to meet the forecast demand. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) alone, the demand for hospitals is likely to grow from 51,000 to 70,000 and the number of hospitals is likely to rise from 364 to 502. KSA’s spend on healthcare is expected to grow to over US $20 billion by 2016.
So what has triggered this unprecedented rise in demand in the Middle East that is accompanied by spiralling healthcare costs?
Health systems throughout the Middle East are varied, many addressing specific local issues. The more mature economies are increasingly
facing challenges that resonate around the world - population growth, aging populations and an increase in lifestyle diseases. The less mature health economies face challenges of equal, but different, magnitude as they attempt to alleviate the pressure on overburdened systems, raise standards of care to improve medical outcomes and increase access to quality healthcare. However, there are few other regions in the world that face such an exponential increase in demand whilst simultaneously getting to grips with the need to re-structure healthcare delivery models, improve healthcare affordability and fund one of the world’s largest infrastructure investment programmes. The provision of facilities is only one aspect of a health system and the conference equally addressed skill shortages of qualified workforce, the changing role of hospital CEO’s and leadership, quality improvement/lean management techniques and the opportunities around data and information technology.
McKinsey forecasts that the GCC population will almost double by 2025 and whilst the average age of current populations is unusually young, it is the over-65 demographic that is set to increase at the fastest rate over the next decade. As GCC nationals reap the benefits of rapid urban development and rising personal incomes, a more sedentary way of life has led to a dramatic increase in lifestyle related diseases.
Unusually high levels of obesity and diabetes will inevitably contribute to the region’s spiralling healthcare costs as the need for specialist centres escalates.
A more unique challenge faced by authorities and healthcare providers in the GCC is attracting, developing and retaining clinical staff. Whilst significant investment has been made in developing medical education facilities to encourage nationals to enter the medical profession, there is still a dependency on overseas staff with differing standards of education and work practices.
How are AECOM’s healthcare practitioners helping to meet these challenges?
AECOM has been delivering healthcare infrastructure in the Middle East for over sixty years. As we advise on the design and engineering on some of the region’s highest profile healthcare projects, we are focused on the real challenge - the creation of smart healthcare systems and buildings that support them that are sustainable and future-proofed.
Sustaining the health of a patient represents the core purpose of our healthcare facilities and our healthcare providers. Sustaining the health and wellbeing of our environment represents the core purpose of an environmentally responsive design. In healthcare, the gravitation toward principles of salutogenesis is widely acknowledged as the shift in thinking that must be embraced
to address the healthcare crisis that we face. The creation of spaces that improve wellbeing – spaces that are salutogenic - must intrinsically be developed in concert with a detailed and scientific assessment of sustainability.
For parts of any healthcare economy, hospital-centred models of healthcare delivery can often look increasingly financially unsustainable. With high fixed costs, and infrastructure depreciation, exacerbated by the drive for improved quality of care and better health outcomes, care closer to the communities that health systems serve is increasingly an important part of a country’s health economy. AECOM’s use of personas in their design strategies always complements the brief and ensures a patient-centred solution.
Facilities that not only need to accommodate rapidly-advancing technology, be adaptable to the impact of climate change and tailored to meet the economic, environmental but also reflect the culture and tradition of the communities they serve. All this must be supported by evidence and proof. In essence, the design, engineering and delivery of healthcare infrastructure in the Middle East, as around the world, demands ingenuity.
By AECOM’s John Hicks, head of global healthcare, and Carl McKenzie, healthcare director, Middle East
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