As demand rises across the region, the challenge facing the sector will be to ensure that the planned investment in new healthcare assets, results in improved levels of patient care.
Across the Middle East today, demand for access to quality healthcare is growing rapidly. GCC governments are responding to this challenge by allotting significant budgets to help build new healthcare facilities that can meet patient needs and elevate the overall standards of care. Recent data from MEED Projects indicates there’s almost US$45 billion in planned and ongoing healthcare projects across the region, with almost 350 hospital projects at different stages of development.
There are various reasons why demand is growing. Figures from Alpen Capital research show that the GCC population looks set to grow at an annualised average rate of 2.4% from 2015 to 2020. It is also an aging population, with over 15% projected to be over the age of 50 by 2020 compared to around 11% in 2014. New hospitals and clinics offer a huge opportunity to not only increase capabilities in new or refurbished environments, but also to deliver innovative, new services using better technology and systems.
The challenge the sector faces, is that many of the facilities produced in region still fall short of the ideal. Many are delivered late or are not up to the standard originally envisioned, potentially affecting the ability to provide the best possible level of patient care.
Three steps that can help ensure that investment in new healthcare facilities yields excellent patient outcomes and helps to improve quality of life are as follows:
1. Employ a program management approach from the outset:
Embracing a program management approach, rather than viewing projects in isolation, can bring about many important benefits for healthcare providers. These include; an effective delivery model which is clear on factors such as organisational structure and capital asset requirements; a truly patient-centric system that puts a premium on patient needs and outcomes; a strong, multi-disciplinary team that groups delivery leaders with clinical professionals and other specialists for synergistic benefits; and solid change and risk management capability, enabling people to deal with uncertainties without veering away from the bigger vision and priorities at hand.
2. Align planning and delivery functions:
This may seem obvious however, too often, there is an asymmetry between the planning and delivery functions in healthcare organisations, as well as an absence of a defined framework to progress a proposed investment. This is a big risk, particularly if there is inappropriate divergence from an agreed schedule of processes and outputs. This could be mitigated through closer co-ordination between planning and delivery functions, particularly during the project initiation stage. It also helps to develop a ‘master program’ which identifies activities, constraints, and inter-dependencies, with buy-in around the need to avoid divergence from the programme unless absolutely unavoidable.
3. Prioritise operational commissioning:
In a healthcare environment, operational commissioning is the set of processes and activities by which a technically fully functional and tested building, is transformed into an operational clinical facility. Operational readiness marks the end of the whole process. An operationally ready facility has the right people at the right place at the right time, working with the right equipment and technology, in accordance with the right policies and processes. This part is often sorely underestimated or, in some cases, completely overlooked, resulting in delays and unnecessary costs. A key component in the delivery of new facilities is establishing a team of individuals dedicated to the operationalisation of the new facility, a hugely complex task particularly for large projects. This should never be a mere ‘add-on’ to people’s existing day jobs.
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