KSA’s oldest medical city looks to the future with digital treatment

KSA’s oldest medical city looks to the future with digital treatment
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Social distancing restrictions and limitations on travel last year helped KSMC accelerate the implementation of its digitalization plans. (Social media)
KSA’s oldest medical city looks to the future with digital treatment
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King Saud Medical City. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 June 2021

KSA’s oldest medical city looks to the future with digital treatment

KSA’s oldest medical city looks to the future with digital treatment
  • King Saud Medical City aims to digitally treat up to 2,500 patients a week by Q4 2021

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Health is forecast to spend $18.5 billion on healthcare every year for the next decade, with a focus on digitalizing the sector and adopting modern, even futuristic, processes to increase the life expectancy of Saudi citizens.

As part of the Vision 2030 program, two big healthcare targets have been set for 2025: For 88 percent of the population, including those in rural areas, to have access to inclusive health services, and for 100 percent of the population to be covered by a unified digital medical records system.

Work toward achieving targets is already underway and a prime example is Riyadh’s King Saud Medical City (KSMC), the oldest medical city in the Kingdom, which was founded in 1956 and currently boasts 1,400 beds and around 8,000 employees. In 2018, KSMC started the process to digitize its services and processes.

Social distancing restrictions and limitations on travel last year helped to accelerate the changes.

“During the pandemic you saw an increase in the virtualization of services — there is no need (for patients) to come for a regular visit,” Mohammed Saud Alhassan, director of E-Health Administration at KSMC, told Arab News.

“You have the choice as a patient of a virtual or physical clinic, based on the doctor’s opinion. So, most of the patients, especially in the outpatient clinic for just a regular checkup, there was no need for the patient to come into the facility itself so they can be seen virtually and given instructions by the doctor,” he added. 




Mohammed Saud Alhassan, director of E-Health administration at King Saud Medical City. (Supplied)

During the pandemic, emergency cases were still seen in the hospital. But in a bid to reduce face-to-face interactions, if treatments could be done virtually then they were. With the systems now in place, KSMC is planning to ramp up its usage. Alhassan said the hospital’s doctors are currently seeing around 400 patients virtually, but by the fourth quarter of this year he hopes to see this increase to 2,500 per week.

Back in 2018 when they began the digitalization plan, Alhassan said they believed it was going to take around three to four years to change the workflow system, but they have managed to achieve what they wanted in around a year.

“Yes (COVID-19) has been a gift for us. It has been a strong signal to look for the next generation of systems to help us optimize our resources,” he said.

The Kingdom’s investments in healthcare are already seeing results in recent years, as according to the Vision 2030 website, the average life expectancy of Saudi citizens rising from 72.6 years in 2000 to 75 in 2018.

As part of the process, KSMC developed a digital application for patients and staff. One of the key steps in the process was digitalizing patient health data, which was previously all done using paper documents in files and updated manually. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• In 2018, KSMC started the process to digitize its services and processes.

• Social distancing restrictions and limitations on travel last year helped to accelerate the changes.

• The hospital’s doctors are currently seeing around 400 patients virtually.

Rodrigo Castelo, vice president Middle East and Africa at US-based software development company OutSystems, who partnered with KSMC to manage the upgrading of the systems, said this switch from paper to screen required a lot of investment in staff training.

“To roll out such a change to digital you need to make sure usability is not complicated, as you have admin staff who might not even have an education degree of any type and then you have the doctors. So, the same system needs to be used by a diverse pool of resources, and needs to be simple and appealing. It is not a simple change,” he explained.

Castelo said the move toward digitalization was already in place before the pandemic, but it has seen demand for its services in Saudi Arabia soar dramatically.

“The Saudi market is growing a lot and very fast. In the region, we have been growing between 80 and 100 percent year-on-year. Saudi Arabia has been growing faster at the moment, I would say even more than the UAE,” he added. KSMC is only the start of the evolution in the healthcare sector. Saudi Arabia’s NEOM megaproject is looking to completely change how healthcare is provided, using smart toothbrushes and artificial intelligence to flag up potential health problems, using a virtual health assistant — or “digital twin” — to monitor biometrics every day.

The Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has also invested $400 million in Magic Leap, a US augmented reality startup. The Florida-based tech firm’s headsets are already being used in the medical industry, where doctors on different sides of the world can take part in procedures, reducing the geographical limitations on what can be accomplished.

“Let us say it is brain surgery,” CEO Peggy Johnson told Arab News. “They may be in the midst of things and they have a question and they really want to talk to somebody who has done maybe a number of these surgeries. You can actually do that with the device. You can make a call to a remote expert and they can see what that surgeon is seeing and talk them through assistance.”


Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets
Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets
  • The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016

RIYADH: More than two-thirds of Riyadh’s new restaurants are Saudi, dwarfing American and Lebanese influenced eateries, according to a report from real estate firm Knights Frank.

The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016, when the National Transformation Plan was announced, the research says.  “The Kingdom’s capital is beginning to morph into a foodie’s treasure trove and we’re not done yet,” Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East research at Knight Frank said. 

This growth is led by homegrown restaurants and cafes, he added, with 68 percent of Riyadh’s new outlets being Saudi — 21 percent of which specialize in international cuisine. 

“American food outlets account for 16 percent of food and beverage outlets, while Lebanese restaurants are the third most prevalent at 13 percent,” Durrani said. 

The US and the UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh, respectively, he added.

“International brands must adapt their proposition across the full spectrum to suit demand, both in terms of operational aspects, as well as the actual menu offering itself,” said Pedro Riberio, head of retail advisory KSA at Knight Frank. The Kingdom’s capital will further benefit from upcoming tourism developments, including the Bujairi Terrace and Diriyah Gate, which the Knight Frank report said will add “15,000 sq. meters of lifestyle retail space to the capital when its 17 restaurants open their doors in 2022.”

This rapid growth and competition are putting pressure on older developments, the report indicated, with some operators struggling to keep vacancy rates and footfall up.


Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit
Updated 21 min 31 sec ago

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

RIYADH: On the eve of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s arrival in Muscat, Saudi Arabia and Oman signed 13 memoranda of understanding, reportedly worth more than $10 billion and covering a number of sectors.

The agreements were signed by Omani companies fully-owned by the sultanate’s Investment Authority, Omani state TV reported on Monday.

OQ Group, a global energy provider based in Oman, signed three of the agreements, the first of which was with ACWA Power and Air Products in the fields of petrochemicals, renewable energy and green hydrogen. The second, relating to oil storage, was signed with Saudi Aramco, and the third, involving development of Oman’s Duqm Petrochemical Complex project, with SABIC.

Omran Group signed a memorandum with the Saudi Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company for the development of the Yetti Beach in Oman. Omran is described as creating sustainable and authentic tourism assets, lifestyle communities and destinations designed to drive economic growth and contribute to the diversification of the economy.

Another memorandum was signed by Fisheries Development Oman and Saudi Arabia’s National Aquaculture Group, or Naqwa, to boost cooperation in fisheries.

The Saudi Tadawul Group and the Muscat Securities Market signed a memorandum for cooperation with the operation of the stock exchange and the dual listing of companies.

Oman-based Asyad, a logistics group, signed an agreement with Saudi Bahri, a transportation and logistics company, while Minerals Development Oman signed a deal with the Kingdom’s Maaden Phosphate Co. to boost cooperation in the mining sector.

Badr Al-Badr, the CEO of the National Companies Entrepreneurship Program in Saudi Arabia, said that the total investment value of the memoranda of understanding is expected to exceed $10 billion, the Oman News Agency reported.

Crown Prince Mohammed arrived in Oman on Monday on the first of several stops on an official tour of Gulf states. The visit is expected to build on talks Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tariq held with King Salman during his visit to Saudi Arabia in July.

The crown prince’s visit is “based on directives from King Salman, his keenness to communicate with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and to strengthen ties,” the Royal Court said in a statement issued by the Saudi Press Agency.

The prince will meet the sultan and they will review issues of mutual concern, with the aim of achieving progress and prosperity for both countries and their peoples, the Oman News Agency reported.

The visit to Oman is an “affirmation of the ties of fraternity and kinship, and the historical relations binding the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ONA report said, adding that both countries “are set for a new stage of economic and investment cooperation in all fields.”

In July, both countries reaffirmed plans for joint investment in advanced technologies, innovation, renewable-energy projects, industrial health, real estate, tourism, petrochemical-converting industries, supply chains, logistics partnerships, information technology and financial technology, according to ONA.

“The achievements made over the past five months and the active exchange of visits among officials reflect the keen desire of the two countries to work together,” the agency said, adding that this includes the establishment of the Saudi-Omani Investment Forum, which was held in Muscat in August, during which a number of agreements were signed.

A memorandum establishing a coordination council was signed by the two countries, along with a separate agreement to boost government and private-sector trade and investment, as well as cooperation, in environmental and food security.

According to a joint statement, the two sides also agreed to expedite the opening of their border crossings to ease the movement of people and goods to “integrate supply chains in order to achieve the desired economic integration.”

During his regional tour, the Saudi crown prince will also meet leaders and senior officials of the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait to discuss bilateral relations. His trip comes ahead of the GCC summit in Riyadh this month. He is expected to head to Abu Dhabi after Oman.


ACWA power to sign $7bn green hydrogen deal with Omanoil, Air Products

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Haitham bin Tarik, Sultan of Oman in Muscat. (ONA)
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Haitham bin Tarik, Sultan of Oman in Muscat. (ONA)
Updated 07 December 2021

ACWA power to sign $7bn green hydrogen deal with Omanoil, Air Products

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Haitham bin Tarik, Sultan of Oman in Muscat. (ONA)
  • Part of 13 MoUs signed with a value of $10bn

MUSCAT: Saudi ACWA power will sign on Tuesday a $7 billion deal with Omanoil and Air Products to produce green hydrogen in Oman's Salalah Free Zone, it was reported on Monday.

Omani and Saudi firms signed 13 memoranda of understanding (MoU) potentially valued at more than $10 billion, Omani official media reported on Monday, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sets off on a Gulf tour.

The deals come as part of Prince Mohammed's visit to Oman as part of a GCC-wide tour.

The crown prince will also meet with leaders and senior officials of the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, to discuss bilateral relations.


Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map
  • Kingdom’s plans for improving environment, combating climate change, reaching carbon neutrality shared at global industry forum

JEDDAH: A Saudi government institution responsible for the desalination of seawater has revealed its road map to achieving environmental sustainability at a major international industry conference.

Officials from the Saline Water Conversion Corp. shared their Saudi Green Initiative action plans — aimed at improving the environment, combating climate change, and reaching carbon neutrality ­— at a recent forum in London attended by more than 90 global leaders and investors.

By taking part in the event, the SWCC not only hoped to strengthen its world leadership role in the desalination industry, but also look at ways to further reduce production costs while increasing the involvement of relevant Saudi companies and organizations in current and future projects.

Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan was among forum delegates who heard how the corporation was focused on enhancing the use of clean energy sources in place of thermal heating systems.

Addressing the meeting, Saleh Al-Mana, the SWCC’s assistant deputy governor for technical affairs and projects, said that by reusing water and recycling filters in production systems, and developing engineering principles in technical designs for beneficiaries including the agriculture, industrial, and urban sectors, the transition to low carbon activated the circular economy.

The corporation has been working on initiatives to achieve environmental sustainability in all areas of desalination supply, from production to transportation.

At the Saudi Green Initiative forum held in Riyadh in October, the Kingdom revealed its blueprint for dealing with climate change by increasing the reliance on clean energy, protecting the environment, and offsetting millions of tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030.

The country was investigating more ways to produce, treat, and distribute water locally using energy systems that ensured sustainable growth.

The initiative aims to protect the marine environment by investing in zero liquid discharge systems, a wastewater management system that extracts salts and minerals and converts them into products of high economic value for use in the industrial sector.

Earlier this year, the SWCC set a world record for the lowest energy consuming desalination plant.

The transition to a low-carbon future will be a complex process. Alternatives will take significant time and sustained investment to meet the rising global energy demand.


Aramco signs $15.5bn gas pipeline deal with global consortium led by BlackRock

Aramco signs $15.5bn gas pipeline deal with global consortium led by BlackRock
Updated 06 December 2021

Aramco signs $15.5bn gas pipeline deal with global consortium led by BlackRock

Aramco signs $15.5bn gas pipeline deal with global consortium led by BlackRock

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco signed a $15.5 billion lease and leaseback deal involving its gas pipeline network with a consortium led by BlackRock Real Assets and Hassana Investment Co., said a statement.

Considered to be one of the largest energy infrastructure deals, it represents Aramco’s asset optimization program and is the second such infrastructure transaction by Aramco this year after the closing of the oil pipeline infrastructure deal earlier in June 2021.

Upon completion of the gas pipeline transaction, Aramco will receive upfront proceeds of $15.5 billion, further strengthening its balance sheet, the statement added.

Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, said: “BlackRock is pleased to work with Saudi Aramco and Hassana on this landmark transaction for Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure. Aramco and Saudi Arabia are taking meaningful, forward-looking steps to transition the Saudi economy toward renewables, clean hydrogen, and a net-zero future.”

As part of the transaction, a newly-formed subsidiary, Aramco Gas Pipelines Company, will lease usage rights in Aramco’s gas pipelines network and lease them back to Aramco for a 20-year period. In return, Aramco Gas Pipelines Company will receive a tariff payable by Aramco for the gas products that will flow through the network, backed by minimum commitments on throughput.

Aramco will hold a 51 percent majority stake in Aramco Gas Pipeline Company and sell a 49 percent stake to investors led by BlackRock and Hassana, which is the investment management arm of the General Organization for Social Insurance.

Saad Al-Fadly, CEO of Hassana Investment Company, added: “We are particularly excited about this deal as it comes in line with Hassana’s strategy to create enduring value for GOSI and further strengthen our long-lasting partnerships with strong and reputable players such as Aramco and BlackRock.”

According to the statement, Aramco will continue to retain full ownership and operational control of its gas pipeline network and the transaction will not impose any restrictions on Aramco’s production volumes. 

Aramco CEO said: “With gas expected to play a key role in the global transition to a more sustainable energy future, our partners will benefit from a deal tied to a world-class gas infrastructure asset.”

The announcement follows a $12.4 billion lease and leaseback transaction concluded in June with a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, which involved Aramco’s stabilized crude oil pipeline network.

Abdulaziz M. Al Gudaimi, Aramco Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, said: “We are pleased that we are concluding the second transaction, seeking long-term partners who understand and appreciate the industry.”

The gas pipeline transaction is expected to close as soon as practicable, subject to customary closing conditions, including any required merger control and related approvals.