Focus: The next healthcare hub

Well Taken Care of Two

Jul. 12, 2021

Increasing investments are pushing Qatar to the forefront of medical developments.

Year after year, the healthcare system in Qatar is ranked among the best in the Middle East and beyond. Not The country's public and private health care facilities are not only highly advanced and state of the art, they are staffed with highly proficient medical professionals. In the 2019 Legatum Prosperity Rankings, Qatar ranked among the top five globally for health, outperforming all other GCC member states as well as the MENA region. Since 2017, the Hamad Medical Corporation, a local non-profit healthcare provider, has opened four new hospitals, including a women's wellness and research center and a rehabilitation institute. While all citizens are able to access healthcare through the governments public system, private options are available for Qataris, expats, and even international visitors looking for faster or more specialized care. The country is looking to leverage its position as a top-quality health care provider to transform it into an international hub for all things medical, from research to training to provision of care.

Qatar's National Health Strategy 2018-2022 seeks to further support and invest in the country's world class evidence based health services. The country excels in a number of medical fields, including internal medicine, gastroenterology, rehabilitation, and laboratory medicine, plastic surgery, and reproductive medicine, the last two of which are among the most in demand fields for medical tourists. As the cost of healthcare rises in many developed countries while the price of international travel declines Qatar is looking to increase its appeal to and ease of access for medical tourists. In 2017, the country waived visa restrictions for 80 countries, a move in part aimed at making it easier for not only patients to access the country's medical facilities, but for their family members to accompany them.

The country is also leading the way in terms of research initiatives. In early 2021, the Qatar Diabetes Prevention Program plans to begin recruitment of subjects for a five-year study conducted by Hamad Medical Corporation, the Qatar Metabolic Institute and the Academic Health System. The program is designed to uncover the most effective preventative methods to avoid developing type two diabetes among Qataris. The study will include four clinical trials which are aimed at preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to type two; preventing the reoccurrence of gestational diabetes and its progression to type two; reversing already developed type two diabetes; and early intervention to prevent gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes is a pressing issue around the world and in Qatar, where 17 to 20% of the adult population suffers from the disease, while an additional 20 to 25% have pre-diabetes. Additionally, nearly a quarter of all pregnant women in Qatar are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, equal to about 6,500 cases per year. This prompted the government in late 2020 to start screening all pregnant women in an effort to prevent gestational diabetes from progressing into type two.
The comprehensive and well-developed nature of Qatar's healthcare infrastructure has left it ideally positioned to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. In late 2020, Hamad Medical Corporation won the Elite Hospital Award, distinguishing the group for its dedication to providing and upholding its high standard of care during the pandemic. The corporation significantly increased its capacity across its hospital network in response to the increased demand for care stemming from the spread of the coronavirus. This included 2,900 new hospital beds, of which 700 were intensive care beds. Additionally, five of its hospitals, including two recently completed facilities, were redesigned as Covid-19 treatment facilities, all part of its efforts to ensure the continuation of care and services both for patients with the virus and those with other conditions.

In response to the pandemic, Qatar has also been leading the region in digital health. The country's previous implementation of its Electronic Health Record system played an important role in its early containment efforts. The immense amount of data compiled by the system has aided health authorities in contact tracing applications as well as education initiatives. Additionally, the country's Ehteraz mobile application has been an indispensable resource; the app, developed in May 2020 and is required for all residents of Qatar, has played a vital role in contact tracing efforts.

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