Health Care Insights - Health Care Providers: Middle East
Recently published sources suggest that both satisfaction and concerns with healthcare providers vary from one Middle Eastern country to another. Compared to people in Turkey, for example, people in Saudi Arabia, appear to be more satisfied with the healthcare services that are offered in their country. Pain points vary as well, with people in Saudi Arabia finding the biggest healthcare problems to be the steep cost of healthcare, the poor quality of treatment, and the long waiting times, and people in Turkey finding the biggest healthcare problems to be the long waiting times, the lack of staff, and the poor quality of treatment. If the behavior of people in the United Arab Emirates is any indication, people in the Middle East choose healthcare providers based mostly on word of mouth and experience. There are several factors that influence their decision, and the condition and cleanliness of the building and waiting area, the specialty and expertise of staff, the quality of interaction time with the doctor, the waiting time, the distance, and the number of patients served are among them.
While information about healthcare consumers in Middle Eastern countries could be readily found in surveys, academic studies, and news articles, we found it necessary to include one source that was published more than two years ago in July 2016. We used this source to supplement the limited information that we found on how people in the Middle East choose healthcare providers. The rest of our sources are all recently published. Details specific to Middle East, as a whole, are not publicly available, so we researched the different Middle Eastern countries separately, along with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and used insights on the region as a whole and the individual countries specifically to draw conclusions about the Middle East.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
People residing in GCC countries Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia report satisfaction with the quality of healthcare services they receive. This is despite the fact that a large percentage of Gulf residents would prefer to receive medical treatment overseas. Survey results indicate that 39% of UAE nationals, 47% of Bahrain nationals, and 43% of Qatar and Oman nationals would travel overseas for medical treatment. The cost of healthcare in the GCC is growing, but nationals and expatriates alike have health insurance and can receive health services free of cost.
When it comes to keeping their health data secure, healthcare consumers in Saudi Arabia place a greater deal of trust in government and hospitals than in urgent care clinics, walk-in clinics, and non-medical staff. The government is the most trusted, with 79% of Saudi healthcare consumers saying they trust the government will protect their healthcare data. Non-medical staff at the healthcare provider's office, on the other hand, is the least trusted, with only 52% of the country's healthcare consumers saying they trust non-medical staff. Health data breaches appear to be a pain point, however, and according to the healthcare consumers in the country, these breaches often take place in hospitals, at the physician's office, or the pharmacy. Around 75% of Saudis report that their medical data had been breached before, while 32% report that their personal data had previously been breached. The types of data most commonly breached are electronic medical records, medical record numbers, and health insurance identification numbers. Of Saudis who have experienced a breach, 42% report having less trust in their healthcare provider.
There appear to be stark differences in perceptions of medical care among Middle Eastern countries, with data suggesting higher levels of satisfaction in Saudi Arabia and lower levels of satisfaction in Turkey. Fifty-nine percent of adults in Saudi Arabia agree that they get all the medical care they need, while only 43% of adults in Turkey do so. Fifty-four percent of adults in Saudi Arabia believe the quality of healthcare they have access to is good, while only 46% of adults in Turkey do so. About the same percentage of adults in Saudi Arabia and Turkey (50% versus 51%) agree that wait times to secure an appointment with physicians are too long, and about the same percentage (56% versus 57%) agree as well that many people in their country cannot afford quality healthcare. Personal data security appears to be a cause for worry for adults in Turkey, with 63% of them (versus 46% of adults in Saudi Arabia) agreeing they are concerned their personal data will be shared with other parties without their consent. Forty-one percent of adults in Saudi Arabia and 46% of adults in Turkey believe the healthcare system in their country is overstretched. In Saudi Arabia, the biggest healthcare problems are the steep cost of healthcare, the poor quality of treatment, and the long waiting times. In Turkey, on the other hand, the biggest healthcare problems are the long waiting times, the lack of staff, and the poor quality of treatment.
HOW PEOPLE CHOOSE HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
If what is happening in the UAE is any indication, consumers in the Middle East select healthcare providers based mostly on word of mouth and experience. These two factors were identified as the most crucial factors consumers in the UAE consider when choosing healthcare providers. In the UAE, most employers pay for health insurance, and individuals can select which hospitals and physicians to access. In some cases, the insurer has a list of hospitals and physicians to choose from. Access to independent medical advice, in cases where consumers are unsure of which provider to use or whether a consultation is needed, is limited, however. Healthcare consumers in the country are advised to "consult their assistance company, which would refer them to assessed and accredited networks." This is especially recommended in Dubai, as most people in the city do not have long-established relationships with local hospitals and physicians. In Saudi Arabia, the top sources of healthcare-related information are online search engines (35%), pharmacists (35%), doctors or healthcare professionals (34%), and family and friends (29%), while in Turkey, the top sources of healthcare-related information are doctors or healthcare professionals (64%), online search engines (55%), pharmacists (46%), and family and friends (41%).
WHY PEOPLE CHOOSE HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
The factors that motivate consumers in Saudi Arabia to choose a healthcare provider appear to be the condition and cleanliness of the building and waiting area, the specialty and expertise of staff, the quality of interaction time with the doctor, the waiting time, the distance, and the number of patients served. The affordability of fees and the accessibility of the hospital are important considerations too. In Iran, the quality of the physical examination, the cleanliness of the facility, the amount and quality of education offered after discharge, and the level of attention paid by medical staff are the motivating factors for consumers selecting healthcare providers. When it comes to choosing physicians, consumers or patients in Saudi Arabia are influenced by how well-renowned the doctor is and whether they or their relatives had an experience with the physician before. The appearance, the title, and the sub-specialization of the physician matter too.