2 min read
16 Apr

I have been watching regional versions of the Shark Tank lately. Recent episodes had a spate of health based products. There were health technology, mental health and AI, wellness and even healthy snacking options. It got me thinking about how, the greater the problems there are in an industry, the larger the opportunity.

Data from 2021 shows that global spending on health innovation reached USD 44 billion, double the amount in 2020. In 2021, the acquisition of health and health-tech companies rose by 50%. In the GCC, healthcare expenditure in 2020 ranged from 7.6% of GDP to 4.8% of GDP as against the global average of 10.3% of GDP.

This month, I write about what I believe are the top three factors that will be a big part of this industry.

Medical Devices – a key area of focus

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) medical devices market is expected to reach USD 21.8 billion by 2027. The key countries contributing to this growth are expected to be the UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The healthcare sector in the region has been witnessing collaborations to shift manufacturing to the region. In 2022, the UAE government signed MoU’s worth over USD 70 million between major pharmaceutical and medical devices companies in the UAE. As per Frost and Sullivan, the MedTech sector domestic manufacturing will gradually take over in the GCC region, driving the diagnostic and patient monitoring devices market growth to 9%-10%. 

Digital Transformations and AI

Annual investments in healthcare digital infrastructure in the GCC alone are expected to increase from USD 500 million to USD 1.2 billion in the next two years. The health-tech start-up ecosystem in the MENA region is now worth over USD 1.5 billion, which is a 22-fold increase since 2016. Artificial intelligence (AI) in the radiology value chain is likely to be driven by hospital investments in GCC, further bolstering AI usage in precision imaging for diagnostics and therapeutics. Virtual care, remote patient monitoring, and artificial intelligence (AI) are likely to be a big part of the regions healthcare journey.

Genome Testing and Personalised Medicine

Personalised Medicine (PM) tailors healthcare delivery to individual needs. It can help health systems improve outcomes and patient experiences, while controlling treatment costs. This is achieved with the help of data relating to a patient’s life and risk profile, medical records, health history, and genome. AI, big data, machine learning, and direct-to-consumer kits have made it easier to extract genomic information. Globally, genetic testing is projected to reach USD 17.3 billion by 2026. 

The GCC region is also entering this space. There are now Genome programs across the GCC countries. The International Center for Genetic Disease has been awarded USD 10 million to design and implement the Bahrain National Genome Program. Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Saudi Arabia have established biomedical and genomics research centres. The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) recently launched the first Personalised Precision Medicine Programme for oncology in the region and llumina, a firm specialising DNA sequencing and array-based technologies launched its new, state-of-the-art solutions centre in Dubai.

Health was previously a broad, technical domain. It is now being sliced into much smaller areas, with deeper focus. This slicing is across the board – in traditional healthcare, in mental health and even in wellness. Undoubtedly, healthcare, is probably a space with the most “problems” waiting to find solutions. And solutions are emerging quick and fast with the help of AI, analytics and digitisation. “Health is wealth” is taking on a whole new meaning.

This article was originally published in Bahrain This Month's April 2023 issue