The Saudi medtech market was valued at USD 2.25 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 3.87 billion at a CAGR of 9.5 percent by 2023, according to Market Research Future. Like other parts of the Saudi healthcare continuum, the country’s medtech industry is extremely dynamic and changing rapidly, as the five trends below show.
A Collaborative Approach
For Basel Al-Qahtani, Boston Scientific’s Saudi GM, the openness with which public sector actors are now approaching deals with private companies is a standout trend.
[Saudi Arabia] is looking for an open discussion with the private sector; long-term partnerships rather than just commercial transactions
“The country is looking for an open discussion with the private sector; long-term partnerships rather than just commercial transactions,” he smiles. “Companies are looking to profit from their investment and Saudi Arabia can help them do that in different ways. Besides creating a profitable market, the government is offering multinationals a platform for their regional operations as evidenced in the National Investment Strategy announced by the Ministry of Investment. The strategy is signalling to the world that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is open to investment and willing to share the risk.”
Al-Qahtani adds, “Boston Scientific, for example, was one of the first companies to show interest in Saudi Arabia’s RHQ Program, an economic initiative that provides incentives for foreign companies to establish their regional headquarters in the country. Boston Scientific signed an MoU with the country and wants to set an example for other multinational companies.”
An Early Launch Market
Many medtech multinationals now see Saudi Arabia as a priority launch market for new products. This is certainly the case for Becton Dickinson (BD), as VP and general manager for the MENAT region, Maher Elhassan, explains.
Saudi Arabia is a key early launch market for BD because of Vision 2030 and the sizeable transformation it is bringing
“Saudi Arabia is a key early launch market for BD because of Vision 2030 and the sizeable transformation it is bringing. Since healthcare is a key pillar of the Kingdom’s strategy, which calls for an integrated system that delivers value-based care, it has prioritized the introduction of the best technology, something that BD is uniquely positioned to provide.”
However, Elhassan warns that bringing the latest innovations to the Saudi market is far from straightforward. “At the same time, new technology demands a big effort from companies to train healthcare practitioners, and BD is establishing a regional training centre,” he notes. “This project was delayed by the pandemic but is now back on track.”
RWE and Data Generation
A crucial element in bringing new products to market is demonstrating their impact on patients via data analysis and real-world evidence. Mohammed El Ansari, country director at Medtronic, highlights some of the progress that his firm has made along this path.
Data is at the core of any future value-based healthcare proposal
“Data is at the core of any future value-based healthcare proposal,” he proclaims. “There are certain therapies – such as pacemakers – where we have made a positive impact for our patients. Another example is the Diabeter Center which was established in KSA alongside the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2020, with a mission to improve patient outcomes, prevent health complications, and provide better access to efficient diabetes care across the Kingdom. We have been able to achieve a tremendous amount of success due to our model of value-based healthcare, reducing the hospitalization rate of Type 1 diabetes patients to less than 0.5 percent.”
The Pandemic Stress Test
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for all healthcare stakeholders, from supply chain strains to staff safeguarding, and remote working, among a myriad of other concerns. However, for László Svinger, VP & MD for the Middle East and Africa region at 3M, the pandemic represented a “stress test” which the medtech industry has passed and has emerged more efficient and more digital.
At the time of the pandemic, access, quality & efficiency of health services via Health Information was truly critical
“At the time of the pandemic, access, quality & efficiency of health services via Health Information was truly critical,” observes Svinger. “A major technological shift was necessary to completely change the patient-physician interaction. We observed that 3M’s health information systems, where digital data is put to efficient use via artificial intelligence through what we call the 3M M*Modal, improves clinical workflows since healthcare professionals spend nearly half of their time doing administrative tasks as their AI-based virtual assistant takes over. These types of solutions can dramatically improve the efficiency of the healthcare system, creating better outcomes.”
Svinger continues, “AI is not the only segment that has received attention. At 3M we started implementing different technologies in multiple clients across the Middle East region, aiming to improve the workflow for the healthcare workers and play a vital role in the healthcare digital transformation in the region. “
A New Tendering Model
Ole Per Maloy, CEO of Siemens Healthineers’ operations in the Middle East and Southern & Eastern Africa feels that there is room for improvement in Saudi Arabia’s tendering model for the public procurement of medical devices.
Some customers are moving away from more relationship-based partnerships in favour of decision-making based on facts and figures
“One of the challenges with the new tender model is that it does not give any advantages for companies who have a long history in the country,” he laments. “It is of course beneficial to have good connections and history, but the trend is that some customers are moving away from more relationship-based partnerships in favour of decision-making based on facts and figures. It is very similar in Europe too where they use excel sheet scoring models with price and feature criteria only and the company with the highest score wins.”