Demand for healthcare in the region is rising but none other than in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, says the CEO of GE Healthcare
John Dineen likes gadgets - health gadgets, whether they’re small portable heart scanners that can be used in a Third World village or gigantic state of the art x-ray machines that would look more at home on a space ship than a doctor’s office.
He’s going to use those gadgets as he aims to restructure the current healthcare infrastructure in the Middle East, while introducing a largely untapped market to the high tech products now available on the medical market.
Here they both are, side by side, the small and the space-age. Dineen’s sitting high above it all; overlooking what’s arguably the most innovative set of medical equipment to come to the Middle East since the medical technology boom began in the 2000s.
As the CEO of GE’s healthcare division, Dineen is in charge of a $17bn segment of the General Electric Company and the GE business headquartered outside of the United States.
He sees “tremendous growth” potential for the medical arm of the company in the Gulf and MENA, generally thought of as a backwater when it comes to global healthcare improvements, lagging behind regional neighbours such as India.
The firm’s assault on the region is coming at the right time, over the next twenty years treatment demand in the GCC is expected to increase 240 percent while the number of hospital beds will need to more than double to 162,000 as the population ages, according to the consulting firm, McKinsey & Company.
One of GE Healthcare’s main areas of focus will be expanding its business in Saudi Arabia. Dineen says the market there is expanding rapidly - in 2010, GE saw double-digit orders and sales of its equipment from the kingdom.
In re-imagining the medical scene in MENA, Dineen has two main focuses - improvements to the established urban health infrastructure (namely improving the technology of major hospitals and research facilities) and the development of rural healthcare.
It’s a good time, he says, to invest in healthcare. “Almost every government in the region is investing in social structure - we’re seeing significant investments across the board in the healthcare system,” he says.
Part of GE’s investment is aimed towards adapting its equipment systems to each country’s individual needs and bringing a personal touch to the industry in MENA. “We want to create diversity - every market here is a little bit different,” he says. “We need to become a local company with a touch in each place. We want to have a lasting relationship with medical professionals on the ground,” he adds.
He’s also aiming to use the Middle East as a market for improved technology in various fields, including cardiology and radiology. He’ll do this by streamlining equipment - instead of needing a different piece of machinery to perform different tests doctors will have access to one-stop shops, so to speak, which will perform a myriad of exams. It all fits into GE’s strategy to bring simplicity and accessibility to the medical profession in an area of the world that is known for both its poor health (with at least one-fifth of all adults in the UAE and Gulf suffering from diabetes) and impoverished pockets such as Yemen.
“We’re positioning ourselves to really improve healthcare systems,” Dineen explains, adding that the overall aim was to improve “diagnostic and IT capability. We want to be able to help them with their total infrastructure needs - customers have asked us to help them be better providers. We want to really help people operate their hospitals,” he continues.
“We want to be a better industrial partner with our customers. Hospitals are factories, at the end of the day. We want to provide patients with better long term service.”
Arguably Dineen’s biggest achievement in Saudi Arabia has been the implementation of Innova technology, purchased by the Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Centre in Riyadh, the largest private health system in the country, with more than ten operating hospitals. The Innova 3100, a space-age tube machine, allows for angiography, cardiology, neurology and interventional procedures and was purchased by the Al Habib.