Report reviews most important stages of development in Saudi Arabia’s health sector

415 hospitals with more than 58,000 beds all over kingdom

Physicians are 65,619, nurses 129,000 and more than 10,000 pharmacologists in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Health (MOH), represented by the Deputy Ministry for Planning and Development, has issued a book on the activities and achievements of the Ministry of Health and its subsidiary health directorates throughout the Kingdom's regions in 1431H.

Through this book, the Ministry is seeking to provide a document enabling MOH officials to reflect on what has been accomplished during the past year, and analyze its data and results, thus following the highest degree of transparency, openness and effective partnership with the community, proceeding from the Ministry's keenness to meet the health needs and requirements of citizens and residents.

The booklet covers a number of health and administrative achievements, including therapeutic services, preventive medicine services, planning and development, newly introduced departments and programs, health service support, projects and construction and health services during the Hajj.

The book also sheds light on the most outstanding programs and initiatives adopted by the ministry in the course of the last year, including Patient Relations Program, Employee Rights Department, Clinical Follow-up Program, Home Health Care Program, Bed Management Program, and Day Surgery Program.

For over 40 years, Saudi Arabia has been the Health Informatics leader within the Middle East. In the early 1970's, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital was the first hospital to locally build and implement a hospital information system (HIS).

It was such an achievement for the time that they were referred to as the first Automatic Hospital in the Middle East.

Since then, many Health informatics achievements have been attained by Saudi healthcare institutions such as the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and the National Guard Health Affairs.

In 2010, the National Guard Health Affairs received the first prize in the Middle East for Electronic Medical Record implementation.

Various projects are underway within the kingdom such as: development of a national electronic health record, King Abdullah Arabic Encyclopedia, a ministry of Health electronic health record strategy, Mobile healthcare initiatives and much more. Saudi Arabia has committed billions of dollars to the improvement of the Electronic Health (E-Health) Strategy within the Kingdom to improve healthcare service delivery and patient care.

Saudi Arabia has the largest health care market in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), boasting the region's most technologically advanced infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities and medical equipment.

While the Saudi Ministry of Health continues to be the main financier for this sector, public funds alone will be insufficient to meet the increasing health care needs of the Kingdom's rising population, according to the National Commercial Bank’s (NCB’s) review of Saudi Health Care Sector.

Health care in the Kingdom is segmented structurally and provided for by the MoH, Other Public Sector (OPS) - which includes the Ministry of Defense, National Guard, Ministry of Interior, medical colleges, and Saudi Aramco - as well as the private sector.

By the end of 2009, there were 408 operating hospitals, and 2,037 primary health care centers (PHC). Both outpatient visits and inpatient admissions amounted to 131 million and 3 million, in 2009, respectively.

Demand for health care services will continue to rise over the upcoming five years, backed by rapid population growth, a larger aging segment, and the prevalence of long-term non-communicable diseases.

While the government has taken great steps to enhance public health care delivery systems, it has fallen short on its stipulated targets outlined in the Kingdom's successive development plans. Consequently, several initiatives have been undertaken to encourage private sector participation, such as the facilitation of financing vis-à-vis lending institutions.

Opportunities for private players lie in the three tiers of medical care: Primary, secondary and tertiary.

However, with government efforts divided between providing health care services for all three tiers, greater revenue drivers for the private sector will still be in secondary and tertiary care.

Additionally, the anticipated all comprehensive health insurance schemes will act as a catalyst in propelling private sector participation forward.

The NCB report examined the trends and developments of the Saudi health care sector, highlighted its current situation, and forecasted its emerging opportunities and challenges through 2015.