Global Business School for Health


Exploring Healthcare Innovation: Insights from UCL's Global Health Challenge in Saudi Arabia

11 March 2024

Join UCL MBA Health students on their immersive journey through Saudi Arabia's evolving healthcare landscape. Discover the Kingdom's transformative healthcare policies, vibrant pharmaceutical industries, and cultural treasures, all through the lens of global health innovation.

Global health challenge saudi arabia

What is a Global Health Challenge?

As part of UCL’s newly established MBA Health programme, students visit different developing countries for a group project called the Global Health Challenge to get greater exposure to their health systems. Students, with the supervision of the Global Business School for Health (GBSH), visited India and China in addition to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). By visiting multiple public (governmental), private and non-governmental entities, the students then have the ability to understand the potential challenges in those countries and the possible solutions.

The two-week visits took place in January with professional visits, meetings, and Seminars. Students then are required to generate a report based on the insights and context observed during the visit to each specific country

The KSA background

Vision 2030 GHC Blog Image

The KSA is witnessing a tremendous transformation in multiple aspects, including the health sector. Healthcare services were delivered for free by the Ministry of Health for almost a century with little contribution from the private sector in the delivery of healthcare. With the new Saudi Vision 2030 and the Health Sector Transformation Program (HSTP), the separation between service delivery, finance and monitoring are separated. Privatisation of the Ministry of Health’s hospitals and centers by establishing a governmental holding company called Health Holding Company responsible for service delivery. Financing the healthcare services is assigned to the newly established Center for National Health Insurance (CNHI). This leaves the Ministry of Health to focus on monitoring the services delivered to people.

Students visited more than 30 entities in two different cities, Riyadh and Tabuk. Tabuk is the region where the project of dreamers, NEOM, is located on the northwest side of the kingdom. NEOM is seen to be an area of innovation in all aspects, not only the health sector.

With known transformation and openness for innovation, the visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seen to be beneficial to the students.

Trip focus and interest


The trip was designed and built to cover many aspects of the healthcare system in the KSA. Healthcare policy-making, financing, delivery, pharmaceutical industries and innovation were covered. The team visited the city of innovations and dreamers NEOM and had good insights on the innovations planned to be implemented in creating a state-of-the-art healthcare system.

Another focus point was on policy-making and transformation. The team visited multiple governmental entities where the transformation is taking place and is happening. The visits included the Ministry of Health with its different departments, the Center for National Health Insurance, the National Health Command Center (NHCC), the Health Holding Company and the Value in Health Center.

Meeting with the Center for National Health Insurance (CNHI) and the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CHI) was a significant part of the trip. Distinguishing the commercial and national insurance and how those two payment schemes work in the same country simultaneously was a hugely insightful addition. The students understood the future view of the insurance sector in the Kingdom and the aspirations for this sector.

group pic

Healthcare services delivery and pharmaceutical industries are the focus of this trip. A successful visit to Dr. Sulaiman Alhabib Medical Group (HMG) and, meeting with the Vice President for Strategy and getting a broader view of the largest private sector healthcare service provider. The team visited Hikma Pharmaceuticals, a leading pharmaceutical company in the region. These visits gave the team a comprehensive understanding of those sectors.

Cultural and historical aspects of the trip

group pic outside

The Kingdom is opening its rich history and generous culture to the people to discover. Part of the cultural activities during this was visiting Diriyah historical city. Diriyah is a UNESCO site where the history of the Kingdom originated, giving a closer view of the Arabic culture and the experience of seeing Arabian horses and the traditional dances and dresses. Another big thing was the Saudi cuisine; the team tried different Saudi dishes, ranging from rice to camel’s milk and Saudi Coffee!

The trip coincided with a good time in the capital city, where people celebrated a well-known tourism season called Riyadh Season. A visit to a newly established state-of-the-art theme park called Boulevard Riyadh City, enjoying the vibrant vibes of a modern city. The trip ended with people having great memories together and a good experience of a new, unique local culture.