Five Key Trends in MEA Medtech

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) medtech market is expected to grow from a value of USD 16.6 billion in 2019 to USD 21.8 billion at a CAGR of 3.6 percent by 2027, according to Business Market Insights. Read on for five crucial trends impacting MEA medtech and how the industry stands to evolve in the coming years.

 

The Rise of Digitalisation

Rami Rajab, chairman of Mecomed, believes that while there is a large disparity in the level of digitalisation in the MEA, change is coming fast and strong. “To improve, the industry must work to educate regulators about the safety and possibilities provided by the technology, and healthcare professionals about the best use of the products and services,” he notes. “Furthermore, we must work to help educate patients too, since they are set to play a big role in managing their own health at a time when tools will make it possible to perform testing and monitoring from home.”

These advances in digital health are making it easier for a single doctor to see multiple patients and, consequently, keep patients away from the hospital. Therefore, MedServe’s managing director, Maher Abouzeid, believes digitalisation changes the criteria for measuring a region’s healthcare system. “Through advances in digital health, where a single doctor is able to see more patients and the focus is shifting to keeping patients away from the hospital, we need to re-evaluate the criteria we use to assess the strength of a healthcare system based on the number of hospital beds and doctors per 1000 population,” he states.

Additionally, Abouzeid opines that there are significant cost savings associated with the movement to digital health. “These include the lower cost per visitation compared to face-to-face visitations. Similarly, while the cost of new technology is more expensive than previous technologies, there is a considerable improvement in the ability of new ultrasound or MRI machines to detect diseases at early stages. For example, the cost of treating stage one cancer compared to stage four cancer is significantly lower and allows for long-run cost savings.”

 

An Opportunity for Women

Having historically played a less significant role in the MEA’s medtech sector, Inna Nadelwais, executive director at Mecomed, feels that female employees now have a greater role to play than ever before. “[Women’s] uncompromising commitment to their responsibilities has helped them to thrive in an opportunistic environment,” states Nadelwais. “They must still fight against workplace inequities and obstacles in many instances and Mecomed, is continuously aiming to help bridge the gaps found in gender equity, diversity, and inclusion for female medtech industry employees who deserve opportunities to make a difference in healthcare.”

To explain these inequalities in the industry, Nadelwais adds that, “a collaborative survey of the MEA medtech industry between Mecomed and SpenglerFox revealed that only one percent of the CEOs were women, while men were nearly three times more represented at the Vice President or C-level. Moreover, when it came to diverse career opportunities, the ratio of office-based to field-based roles was essentially reversed between the genders, with men at 69 percent in the field and women at 66 percent in the office.”

 

COVID – The Good and Bad

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a multitude of challenges to the medtech industry with significant supply chain issues coinciding with unprecedented demand for diagnostic tests, ventilators, and other medical technologies. However, Abouzeid contends that there is a positive side to COVID that has forced healthcare system transformation. “The pandemic has created a more agile system that has reduced costs, removed waste, and improved the quality of care and the patient experience after years of stagnation and pushback at all levels. COVID created a harmony between these levels and a greater ability to work together and use the data available at hospitals to improve the quality of care.” He continues that this will have far reaching consequences as “COVID has transformed the perspective on hospital design, supply chain, elective surgery, and numerous other healthcare aspects for the future.”

At Mecomed, Rajab has witnessed significant impacts from COVID across the organisation’s members, especially those engaged in diagnostics. He believes that “the objective now is to ensure that diagnostic solutions provide faster and more reliable results. There is an opportunity to reach more patients and have them diagnosed before they go to see a doctor through digital-based solutions.”

However, Rajab foresees future difficulties concerning the breakneck pace of transformations caused by the pandemic. “A rapid evolution of medical devices has created a challenge in terms of time to market in regulated markets. Our message to stakeholders is that we can save time and help patients more efficiently by having faster market access.”

 

Creating an Ecosystem

In order to sustain MEA medtech’s growth, countries and companies need to form a localised approach while developing the region’s talent, according to László Svinger, VP and MD of 3M MEA. Svinger explains how Saudi Arabia’s approach may serve as a benchmark for other countries in the region. “In Saudi Arabia, the localisation framework is about developing a solid educational base for all citizens, instilling values from an early age to prepare its citizens for the future of the local and global labour market. This is great because Vision 2030 is also focused on: upskilling citizens by providing lifelong learning opportunities, supporting innovation, and instilling an entrepreneurial culture that can help Saudi be competitive in the long run.”

Svinger further explains 3M’s alignment with these objectives and puts the responsibility back on the company to develop talent beyond the government’s capabilities in this area. “3M is actively driving knowledge transfer for local professionals; the goal is to help them comply with the global standards, requirements, and up-to-date techniques to treat patients. The largest investment from this perspective went into our Health Information System division where we hired a significant amount of Saudi talent, providing them with the necessary digitalization and artificial intelligence know-how.”

 

A Way Forward for Public-Private Partnerships

Finally, Abouzeid indicates that the systems in the region are moving towards hybrid healthcare systems with strong cooperation between the public and private sectors. “The public sector realises that the private sector is capable of doing this faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. As a result, the public sector is moving to a regulatory role that gives licenses and monitors the operations of the private sector. This system is taking place in Saudi Arabia and the government has offered certain areas of disease management and care to the private sector.”


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