An Introduction to Qatar

On a peninsula in the Persian Gulf which borders Saudi Arabia lies Qatar, a country roughly as big in size as the US state of Connecticut.

The oil-rich nation, which was under British protection until 1971, has a population of 768, 000, with life expectancy currently at 72 years of age. Ethnicity is diverse with about 40% of the population being made up of Arabs, 46% being made up of Pakistanis, Indians and Iranians , while 14% of the population are from other ethnic backgrounds. The national language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken, with Farsi being spoken by smaller groups in Doha, the country’s capital.

Qatari Healthcare Spending

According to Alpen Capital’s GCC Healthcare Industry report 2016, Qatar recorded the highest per capita healthcare spending (US$ 2,043) in the GCC in 2013. Alpen Capital said a rising population, high disposable income, rising life expectancy, low infant mortality and increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity had led to a concurrent increase in the demand for healthcare services. From 2009 to 2013, the total healthcare expenditure in the country had increased at a 15.4% CAGR, reaching US$ 4.4 billion, of which the government financed over 80%. Although the healthcare spending growth in Qatar was the highest in the GCC, it was the lowest as a percentage of the GDP, according to the report. Alpen Capital also stated in the report that the Qatari healthcare market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.7% from 2015 to reach US$ 8.8 billion in 2020.

The Supreme Council of Health

Healthcare provision in Qatar is made up of a combination of treatments provided by government health facilities and private medical practices. The country’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has the dual mandate to develop policies and programs to improve the people’s health so that they may enjoy longer and more productive lives, and to lay the foundation for a vibrant country for decades to come. The SCH’s goal is to vest responsibility for care in the hands of public institutions and the private sector while regulating, monitoring, and evaluating this care against agreed upon outcomes to ensure that an acceptable quality of care is provided.

Public and private healthcare in Qatar

Qataris have the right to free and equal access to health services, which are financed through central funding from the public budget. However, the government is currently considering an alternative mechanism of healthcare financing through health insurance. Expatriates and tourists can receive free or highly-subsidized healthcare on presentation of a health card.

In 2013, Qatar had a total of 13 hospitals (four of which were private) and 452 primary healthcare centers (419 of which were private). Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is a government-run, non-profit healthcare provider that manages eight hospitals as well as the National Ambulance Service and home and residential care services. In January 2016, HMC became the first healthcare system across the world to have all its hospitals accredited by Joint Commission International under the Academic Medical Center accreditation program. Additionally, the National Ambulance Service, Home Healthcare Service, Stroke Service and Palliative Care have all achieved this accreditation. HMC is also the first hospital system in the Middle East to achieve institutional accreditation from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education – International (ACGME-I), which demonstrates excellence in the way medical graduates are trained through residency, internship and fellowship programs.

Although government healthcare is of a high standard, the private healthcare sector is growing. Private healthcare in Qatar is still relatively cost-effective compared with neighboring regions with highly-developed private healthcare systems.

Medical devices in Qatar

Currently, medical devices do not require registration in Qatar, but they do require an import permit, which must be obtained by a local authorized representative. Furthermore, medical devices must be authorized by one of the founding members of the former Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF) to obtain market access and must have obtained a Qatar MEC (Ministry of Economy and Commerce) Marketing Authorization before they can be distributed and sold in the country.