How a suite of new measures in Dubai is set to attract and support record numbers of medical tourists.
While Dubai already offers a wide variety of internationally accredited facilities – staffed by more than 35,000 healthcare professionals from 110 nationalities – as well as Dubai Healthcare City free zone, it’s set to up the ante in the run up to 2020. By this time, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) plans to attract 500,000 annual international medical tourists to the city, a strategy that is fuelling opportunities for the emirate’s burgeoning healthcare industry.
In 2015 the city welcomed just under 300,000 medical tourists from overseas, offering access to a highly qualified pool of multi-disciplinary medical professionals, choice of world-class facilities, absence of long waiting lists, value for money and a pleasant environment for post recovery, leaving little wonder why it is one of the world’s fastest-growing medical tourism hubs.
Commenting on the emirate’s healthcare vision, HE Humaid Al Qatami, Chairman of the Board and DHA Director General, said: “Health regulations are very important to ensure we provide high quality care and patient safety. Dubai has a strong health regulation framework and this has helped ensure quality healthcare, which, in itself is a catalyst for medical tourism.”
Investing for the future
Healthy levels of government and private sector investment into the medical sector are also supporting related economic growth, with the UAE accounting for 26 per cent of total GCC government health care spend in 2016, according to an Alpen Capital report.
This valued the regional market at an estimated US$40.3 billion in 2015, rising to US$71.3 billion in 2020, with the UAE’s share forecast to reach US$19.5 billion by the end of the decade. Medical tourism has a forecasted GDP contribution of US$708 million by 2020, with 13 per cent predicted year-on-year revenue growth, according to DHA.
The city’s role as Chair of the Global Healthcare Travel Council for 2017 is further enhancing Dubai’s position as a world-class healthcare destination as DHA continues the rollout out of its current 12-year master plan, which includes the addition of 40 primary healthcare centres and three new hospitals.
There are also plans to develop a new 1,000-bed medical complex complete with outpatient clinics, a five-star hotel and mixed-use facilities.
Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are also two of the priority sub-sectors also listed under the 2030 Dubai Industrial Strategy, which aims to elevate the emirate as a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses.
“By 2020, we will have 34 indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing factories. The market value of our pharmaceutical industry is set to go up to Dh25 billion (US$6.8 billion) by 2025 whereas it stands at Dh9.5 billion (US$2.58 billion) currently,” said Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy & Licensing Sector, UAE Ministry of Health.
In April 2016, the emirate launched the world’s first comprehensive electronic medical tourism portal, Dubai Health Experience (dxh.ae), offering access to a comprehensive menu of health and related services including wellness, cosmetic and dental, ‘packages’, plus ophthalmology, orthopaedics, physiotherapy and other specialised medical tests.
Currently, 45 healthcare providers are listed through the easy-to-navigate portal, which also has its own android app, with the initiative also encouraging inbound medical travellers through the provision of discounted Emirates airfares, visa services and hotel partner recommendations.
“DXH completed a year of success and progression in strengthening Dubai’s position on the global map of medical tourism, attracting medical tourists from all over the globe to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience in Dubai. [We] proudly embrace leading healthcare providers from hospitals, specialised clinics to day surgery centres offering over 400 different healthcare packages across orthopaedic, fertility, cosmetic, dental, ophthalmology, and wellness treatments,” said Dr Layla Mohamed Al Marzouqi, Director, The Medical Tourism Council.
Medical meeting place
Home to the annual Arab Health Exhibition & Congress, the largest event of its kind in the Middle East, the emirate has been attracting healthcare professionals for business and knowledge exchange for over four decades.
This year alone, Dubai’s medical events calendar includes international conferences and congresses covering specialties ranging from ophthalmology, critical care, cosmetology and neuro oncology to radiology, primary healthcare, cardiovascular pharmacology and healthcare innovation.
Healthcare infrastructure development also merits similarly high profile events with Dubai hosting the annual GCC Healthcare Innovation Congress and Building Healthcare (formerly Hospital Build) conference, with Al Qatami noting that DHA is “working on transforming the role of hospitals and centres to develop them into medical learning institutions and research centres”.