25 YEARS IN JORDAN

Jordan 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Hassib Sahyoun, Founder, Chairman & CEO of MedLabs Consultancy Group, on a quarter of a century in operations, regional expansion, and Jordan's healthcare ecosystem.

What have been your main achievements over the past year, and where does the company stand after 25 years in operation?

The biggest achievement for MedLabs Consultancy Group has been changing the culture of how medical laboratories are structured in Jordan and the region. Up until 1993, laboratories were always a one-man show operation. A specialist would open a lab and serve doctors and patients, but with limited scope and sustainability. Laboratory medicine encompasses several subspecialties and therefore Group Practice was needed to best serve Physicians and their patients. In 1993, MedLabs was able to create the first group practice in laboratory medicine. MedLabs Consultancy Group began with the amalgamation of four private laboratories headed by five doctors each with a different laboratory medicine subspecialties. Today 25 years later, MedLabs Consultancy Group has more than 50 laboratories in three countries—Jordan, Palestine, and Northern Iraq and a world standard Reference Laboratory in Amman. MedLabs employs more than 450 scientists, consultants and management professionals. It has achieved the highest international accreditation including the College of American Pathologists (CAP) accreditation, which is the gold standard for laboratory quality, the European ISO 15189 Laboratory Accreditation and the management ISO 2001-2009 certification. Locally, we were honored to be awarded the King Abdullah II Award for Excellence in 2011 and are currently accrediting all our branches with a world class Jordanian accreditation (HCAC).

How does MedLabs Consultancy Group incorporate technological development and innovation into its operations?

We work closely with international suppliers, and because of our high number of tests, we can justify introducing the most sophisticated equipment. There are several arms to our business, one is serving doctors and patients through our 50 laboratories and another is our reference lab that performs all the highly specialized tests, such as genetics, neonatal screening and surgical pathology that serves more than 150 referring laboratories from within the MedLabs group as well as local and regional non-MedLabs laboratories. Regionally we serve laboratories from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, UAE, Palestine, and Sudan. These samples used to be sent to Europe or America, however, now that we have all the accreditation and are closer geographically and offer faster turnaround times, we are starting to see more referral business. A third service we offer is training for other laboratories that want to achieve accreditation. We have helped several labs in Jordan and the region raise their quality standards. Finally, MedLabs have been leaders in the region offering value-added services to patients such as a free house call service for sample collection, results online through our phone application and a loyalty program that encourages healthy behavior. The idea is to truly care for our patients and offer them a unique patient experience with MedLabs.

What are MedLabs Consultancy Group's regional expansion plans?

We are looking at different markets at the moment. Iraq is starting to recover and we already have four projects in northern Iraq, now we are considering expanding into other main cities in southern and central Iraq. In May 2017, we signed a soft loan agreement for USD2.5 million with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to create 10 major laboratories across the West Bank and later Gaza. We already had two small laboratories in Ramallah and Nablus, but we felt more was needed there. The first three of the new labs in the West Bank should be operational during the first half of 2019. There are also opportunities in Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Gulf.

Is MedLabs Consultancy Group looking for more partnerships in Jordan and when you expand into new markets?

When we go to new markets, we prefer to have local partners as we have done in northern Iraq. It helps significantly because there are local expertise and networking. MedLabs Consultancy Group has been approached many times by venture capital companies and other investors to either acquire or partner with MedLabs. This is not something we are looking for. We welcome investors, though not as controlling partners because we believe that our success is due to the fact that the Laboratory Medicine professionals are managing the business who come from the laboratory environment and know patients, doctors and community needs.

How does MedLabs Consultancy Group contribute more broadly to the sophisticated health ecosystem in Jordan?

Our first job in Jordan is to serve the doctors by providing them with accurate results to help them diagnose their patients. Also, over the last 10 years we have been running major preventative medicine campaigns. This has been extremely successful. The bulk of our patients 10 years ago were over 50 years old, now, 60% are below 50 years old because we have created awareness for the need to check one's own health on a regular basis. We contribute significantly to health awareness wherever we go. We also design checkups for different budgets and help financially with discounts to encourage people to have this done. Corporate Social Responsibility is also important to us at MedLabs. We helped an international organization screen 25,000 mothers and children for anemia. Recently, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, we offered free Vitamin D testing at all 43 of our laboratories in Jordan collecting 15,000 samples in one day. We have conducted similar campaigns in the past for Vitamin B12, HbA1c (Diabetes), Ferritin (iron deficiency) and TSH (thyroid function) as a way to give back to the community and create greater health awareness.

What would be your message to people looking to partner with MedLabs Consultancy Group, and what are the advantages of doing business in Jordan?

MedLabs is a highly transparent company with clear goals and a deep sense of responsibility. We believe in excellence in what we do and how we serve our communities. One of the key assets in Jordan is the availability of highly qualified personnel in all fields including Laboratory Medicine. In Jordan, the regulations are clear, there are excellent human resources, there is stability and security in the country and its geographical location is strategic. Jordan has always served as a regional Medical hub. If you want to invest in this region, particularly in services such as health, education, and pharmaceuticals, Jordan should be one of your priorities. Jordan has many advantages; I encourage people to come and see for themselves.

What developments can we expect from MedLabs Consultancy Group in the year ahead?

Other than the horizontal local and regional expansions mentioned earlier, we also grow vertically. We are regional pioneers in neonatal screening and are currently introducing many advanced tests that have been unavailable in Jordan or the region, mainly in the field of genetics (such as whole genome sequencing). On a human resource development level, I believe that whether you are in Jordan or elsewhere in the world, over the last 20 to 30 years the way the capitalist systems have evolved, humanity has been thrown out the window in the workplace. Therefore, my message is to bring humanity back to the workplace. This is what we have done and are continuing to do in MedLabs. After all, the human element works the machines, applies the systems and serves the community. If your internal community is not happy, satisfied, motivated, trusted and empowered your organization will not be sustainable.