The GCC's spending on healthcare information technology (IT) needs are set to rise to more than $550m by 2015, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.
It said IT investment was "on an upswing" due to the healthcare industry’s and governments' proactive efforts in establishing new hospitals and rolling out initiatives like the national e-health policy and WAREED – the largest health information system project by the Ministry of Health in the UAE.
The increase in patient volume and healthcare data is due to the changing disease profile of the GCC population, Frost & Sullivan said.
Its research found that the total healthcare IT expenditure in GCC countries in 2011 was estimated to be $444.2m and is expected to reach $550.9m by 2015.
But it warned that the market, especially in Saudi Arabia, was being held back by the lack of skilled manpower.
Most of the personnel trained and qualified to manage healthcare IT solutions are expatriates, it said.
“The healthcare IT market can make more technicians available by increasing the number of technical institutes in the GCC countries and training and motivating the doctors to increasingly use IT solutions for healthcare delivery,” said Frost & Sullivan.
“The higher awareness about health and wellness, changing disease patterns, government support, and escalating volumes of healthcare data is expected to ensure rapid growth of the Healthcare IT market in the GCC,” it added.
All the chief information officers surveyed by Frost & Sullivan said they believed that IT can help in the day-to-day management of their hospitals.
The client server technology was the most popular in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while the rest of the GCC preferred broadband, the report added.
It said GCC governments were committed to "robust efforts" to streamline and manage healthcare through IT, despite market challenges.
Storing data in multiple formats makes data integration from all the hospitals challenging. Further, as it is expected to take considerable time and effort to be acquainted with this technology, most healthcare professionals prefer to stick to the traditional methods.