Regional healthcare is at a critical stage in its development.

The sector has been given the highest priority of focus by governments and it sits right at the heart of long-term development strategies.

In the GCC, the healthcare sector is projected to expand at 12.5 per cent a year over the next five years, boosted by a wave of public and private sector investment. MEED estimates that $60bn-worth of investment in healthcare facilities is currently planned or under way in the GCC.

But, as well as the business and investment opportunities, Middle East healthcare is facing huge challenges.

Rapid population growth and the rise in chronic lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are placing increased demand on healthcare services.

In addition, the threat posed by new infectious diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) requires more developed approaches to infection control. The spectre of antibiotic-resistant superbugs challenges the issue of over-medication in the region and demands better regulation and supervision of the sector.

It is no longer about simply building new and bigger hospitals. The challenge today is about ensuring the highest quality of services delivered to the patient in a timely, efficient and healthy way.

The region requires a fundamental shift in focus from treating the disease to treating the patient. This requires new ways of thinking about healthcare delivery and reviewing every aspect of medical services.

The improvements required are as much about the business of healthcare management as they are about clinical healthcare delivery. And they require every part of the healthcare industry to work together, in private and public sectors.