LABOR OF LAB

Saudi Arabia 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

Elaj Group is helping to enhance Saudi Arabia's medical sectors by bringing world-class techniques and technologies with the goal of becoming a full-service care provider.

Dr. Mohammed Fawaz Al Bishri
BIOGRAPHY

Dr. Mohammed Fawaz Al Bishri has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur in the field of healthcare services. He is a founding member and chairman of the board of directors of several healthcare companies such as Elaj Medical Services Company, Saudi Health Investment Company, and Alborg Saudi Arabia Holding. He has a PhD in healthcare management from AlAzhar University.

How have operations evolved across your three business lines of medical centers, diagnostic laboratories, and hospitals, and what are the major factors impacting them?

Once Vision 2030 was unveiled, as a private-sector player we decided to participate in this highly positive transformation, aligning our plans with the Kingdom's strategy. We added the third line of business, represented by hospitals, through the acquisition of the Ghassan Najeeb Pharaon (GNP) group, a well-known brand which, was going through some operational challenges. As such, we completely restructured the various facilities both physically and operationally, adding the latest technology and focusing on patient service. We are developing these hospitals to become mainly tertiary care hospitals in sync with the goal of becoming a top-level, end-to-end healthcare service provider. So far, we have doubled bed capacity, introduced new technological breakthroughs, and launched 11 state-of-the-art ICU rooms. We are also in the final stages of to become active in the imaging/radiology field, a segment which will further improve our positioning as the partner of choice for the transformation of both the government and military sectors. It is essentially a matter of alignment, and although there is a general consensus, such massive plans require time to unfold. I can see clearly that the timing is right, targets are being met, and outcomes are positive and encouraging. From a financial point of view, Q32018 showed a surplus in the country's budget for the first time in over five years.

Where do you see the opportunities for private-sector engagement?

It will be a partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH), which will start outsourcing most of its services to JVs between public and private companies so as to provide a wider range of services at a higher quality. Technology in this sense is opening up many interesting opportunities for collaboration within the goal of healthcare digitalization. Elaj has been active in this digitalization process, especially in the diagnostics business, where Al Borg is the first medical lab outside the US to have an FDA-approved digital pathology unit in the Middle East. This will supplement the lack of availability of doctors at a certain time, since no physical presence is now required. Indeed, technology will truly impact the entire healthcare spectrum.

What is the key to balancing profitability for players in delivering these services and affordability for end users?

With the implementation of national insurance plans and price monitoring by the regulator, we will achieve benefits in three components of the equation: price, end-user, and quality of service. The new approach is patient-centric, which proves to be beneficial because earlier approaches, such as cutting costs through digital practices, ended up benefiting only the providers without any tangible or long-term effect on the quality of service or benefit received by the end user and wider society. A second supportive approach should be to foster a culture of prevention, which has the benefit of cutting long-term treatment costs. The third element to play an important role in guaranteeing quality of services at affordable prices is the current operational shift from the public sector to the private, which is more adept at managing costs.