The concept of medical tourism is not new. The number of people seeking more affordable healthcare options in countries other than their own is increasing, and the paradigm shift is away from low-cost destinations to countries that have a robust healthcare system in place. Sometimes, this is not driven by costs, but by a shortage of qualified medical personnel in their home countries. The United Arab Emirates, which is home to people from 200 countries around the globe and attracts the best talent that the world has to offer, offers one of the best destinations for medical tourism.
The United Arab Emirates has a very healthy ratio of 2.5 doctors for every 1000 of its population. The healthcare system is very well-financed, and the facilities are nothing short of world-class. International names like Mayo Clinic as well as Cleveland Clinic can be found in the United Arab Emirates, in addition to associations with other leading healthcare groups worldwide, such as Johns Hopkins and Moorfields Eye Hospital, which is the oldest ophthalmic institution in Europe.
The presence of these groups ensures that it is easy for healthcare insurers to ascertain the quality of treatment, and pay for procedures carried out in the United Arab Emirates. Another point that that the United Arab Emirates has to its advantage is that all the languages in the world are spoken here, giving it a distinct edge over other countries where language might prove to be a barrier in communicating with the patient undergoing medical treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked the United Arab Emirates 27th in the world in terms of healthcare performance.
The United Arab Emirates is taking medical tourism seriously, and aims to grow in this field. The Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, has entered into an agreement with the Medical Tourism Association, a move that saw the Medical Tourism Association establish its office at Abu Dhabi and see the city host the 12th World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in 2019. This was the first time the event was held outside the United States of America, and saw hundreds of delegates taking part, representing some 100 countries in all. Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as center of excellence for cancer treatment [oncology] and open-heart surgery [cardiology], apart from executive screenings.
Dubai witnessed a massive AED 1.4 billion from medical tourism in 2016. The same year also witnessed the arrival of 326,649 tourists who had come for the specific intention of medical tourism, seeking quality healthcare in ophthalmology, orthopaedics, and dermatology, among other areas. This marked an increase of 9.5% from the previous year.
Interestingly, Asians formed the bulk of medical tourists at 37%, while those from other Arab countries came in a close second at 31%. Those from Europe made up 15%, signifying how the United Arab Emirates is becoming increasingly viewed as a favorable destination for healthcare tourism
The Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism Portal and the Dubai Health Experience are dedicated medical tourism portals where people can contact healthcare providers directly, schedule appointments and book procedures, have their visas taken care of, as well as all the necessary transportation formalities, plus hotel accommodation for accompanying family members, if needed. The Dubai Health Experience portal also offers discounted airfares, and can be downloaded as a mobile app for Android phones. 45 different healthcare providers are listed on the portal, and users can choose from over 400 packages covering medical examinations and tests, dental treatment, orthopaedics, physiotherapy, ophthalmology, cosmetic surgeries, and wellness; as well as hotel partner recommendations.
Medical Tourism By the Numbers
The Dubai Health Authority predicts that $708 million will be the contribution to the GDP from medical tourism, along with an annual revenue growth of 13%. It is currently adding some three new hospitals and 40 primary healthcare centers to the emirate as part of its 12-year plan. The Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 lays emphasis on indigenous production of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals; and the UAE Ministry of Health has a plan in place to have 34 pharmaceutical factories that will boost the current market value of the sector from AED 9.5 billion to AED 25 billion by 2025.
By 2030, one in six persons around the world will be a senior citizen. Some countries are already grappling with a shortage of doctors and a rapidly ageing population. The United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s best medical tourism destinations with its highly talented pool of doctors and qualified healthcare professionals, aided by a strong regulatory framework that permits only the best when it comes to quality of healthcare. Aided by the fact that almost all languages are spoken in the United Arab Emirates, it provides the ideal option for those seeking affordable, high-quality healthcare.
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