Heavy investment lifts Qatar's healthcare system to world-class

13 January 2020 Consultancy-me.com 4 min. read
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Qatar has in the past three decades built one of the GCC’s leading healthcare systems, and even one of the top performers globally, according to a new study by GS Health.

Since the 1990s, Qatar has made impressive strides in its healthcare system, with the nation now performing in a number of areas among the top 20 percent worldwide, including as to life expectancy and burden of disease. As to ‘amenable mortality’, one of the most relevant overall measures of healthcare performance, Qatar has realised even greater results, sitting just behind the world’s leading bracket and above the GCC average.

Given the socio-economic profile of Qatar, however, such outcomes should be expected according to Netherlands-based healthcare sector consultancy GS Health, which has analysed the Qatari market to mark the launch of its new office in the Middle East. With much of Qatar’s progress borne on the back of significant investment into hospital infrastructure, the next step say the researchers is to now strengthen the grassroots.

Gains in Qatar’s healthcare system since 1990

As part of its independent analysis, GS Health charted the gains made by Qatar in its healthcare outcomes over the two-and-a-half decades from 1990 to 2015, based on publicly available figures. Although other developed nations have shown even greater improvement, life expectancy in Qatar over that time has increased by three years, from 75 to 78, for the nation to now sit among the world’s best and comfortably ahead of the GCC average.

Moreover, burden of disease in Qatar has come down by 40 percent since 1990, in particular the burden of communicable, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and kidney diseases have a disproportionately large burden and present the next challenge), with 68 percent more healthy life years added – a figure that represents up to 44 percent more healthy life years than other nations of the GCC.

Reduced burden of disease in Qatar since 1990

This again places Qatar within the world’s top fifth of performers for the category, yet on the Amenable Mortality Index, a greater overall indicator of healthcare performance which measures rates of death considered preventable by timely and effective care, Qatar has in fact achieved the most improvement of any country since 1990 – to be nestled within the top 15 percent and just behind nations such as Singapore, Australia and the Netherlands.

Despite this remarkable progress, in the words of GS Health, such performance is what would be expected of Qatar given its socio-economic profile and sizeable healthcare investments (the nation’s per capita expenditure on healthcare remains overall slightly higher than in Western European counterparts), with the consultancy stating that there is indeed still room for improvement – in particular as to the ‘grassroots’: patient empowerment and primary care.

Qatar healthcare spending breakdown compared to the Netherlands

According to the study, Qatar’s healthcare spending is top heavy – geared toward its world-class hospitals, a generally more costly area of care – and so with a renewed focus on primary care the nation can achieve better outcomes for roughly the same outlay. As it stands, roughly 70-75 percent of Qatar’s budget goes toward secondary care, with the remainder for primary (20-25%) and self-care (0-5%). As a comparison, the breakdown in the Netherlands is 45/45/10 percent.

Embarking on a healthcare ‘journey in reverse’ will not be easy, say the analysts from GS Health, as most pyramids are generally built from the ground up. But by investing in delivery capacity at the base, and actively integrating pathways across the layers of the pyramid, the firm believes Qatar can make further significant gains – including ten years higher life expectancy, a 15 percent lower amenable mortality score, and up to 50 percent reduction in burden of disease.

“We believe that Qatar has an opportunity to create a healthcare system that will provide the most effective and advanced health care to its people and to become a model for the world to follow,” conclude the authors, citing Qatar’s enlightened policy of access to healthcare for all residents. “The heart of Qatar’s strategic vision for the future is helping people achieve their full potential, thereby benefiting the individuals, their families, the community and the nation.”