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How Can Digital Health Solutions Revolutionise Primary Care in the GCC?

Let’s say you live in a remote region of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country. The nearest healthcare facility is hundreds of miles away, and the journey is not only time-consuming but also expensive. On top of that, the facility isn’t specialist care but a primary care provider, which—because of long standing beliefs—you consider to be inferior to specialist care.


This narrative is far too common and it creates significant difficulties for the provision of primary healthcare in GCC countries.


So how can we tackle these challenges? 


Ayman Ababneh, Open Medical’s General Manager in Saudi Arabia, gives his thoughts on how digital health solutions can make a big difference. 

GCC primary care digital solutions
Image created by Open Medical © 2024 All Rights Reserved

Unpacking the challenges

While the GCC countries have made huge strides in developing modern and advanced healthcare facilities, they are predominantly located in urban areas. This leaves rural and remote regions with limited healthcare access.


There’s also a financial challenge. In some GCC countries, the system heavily subsidises specialised care, making it more affordable than primary healthcare services. 


Then there is the perceptual problem. A significant number of people view primary care services as less effective than specialised care. So a lot of people prefer to bypass primary healthcare altogether and head straight to specialists, leading to overcrowded hospitals and underutilised primary care facilities.


So, how can digital health solutions provide some relief?


Implementing digital health solutions

Digital solutions can bridge the geographical gap between healthcare providers and patients. Through online consultations or remote patient monitoring systems, healthcare can be delivered straight to the patient, benefiting those living in remote parts of the GCC countries. Digital solutions can also connect primary and secondary health services to ensure continuity of care.


But that's not all. Digital solutions can also streamline primary care operations, making them more efficient and productive. This is particularly crucial for regions struggling with workforce shortages. Automated and digitised processes can maximise the productivity of existing staff and optimise resource utilisation.


And lastly, tackling the perception issue is not easy, but digital solutions can lend a helping hand through patient engagement tools. Firstly, they can help educate patients about their health, providing them with the necessary knowledge to understand the critical role that primary care plays in maintaining their overall well-being. Secondly, these tools can communicate effectively with patients, providing them with timely and relevant information about their health status. This two-pronged approach not only helps patients understand the importance of primary care but also encourages them to take a more active role in managing their health. 


 

Improving primary care is crucial for a healthier future. Primary care is needed for early detection and chronic disease management. So by focusing on these facilities, we not only help patients manage their health better but also take the burden off more specialised care systems.


One of the most important parts of strengthening primary care is how it builds trust and fosters strong relationships between doctors and patients. This is key for personalised treatment plans that really address individual health needs. And with better primary care, we can ensure a more preventive approach to health–catching issues early on, keeping communities healthier longer, and ultimately cutting down on healthcare costs.


So we need to provide primary care with this support, and the right digital solutions can offer the tools to overcome many of the existing challenges in GCC healthcare systems.


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