A rising population and improved life expectancy, together with higher incomes and sedentary lifestyles, have led to unprecedented growth of the UAE healthcare sector, particularly in terms of facilities and integration of technology. The second biggest healthcare market in the GCC after Saudi Arabia, the UAE is also evolving into a major player in the global health tourism market.
“As government authorities and the private sector race to upgrade skills and capabilities in line with growing demand and global standards, the UAE is fast emerging into a healthcare destination for the Middle East and beyond,” commented Dr.Haider Al Zubaidy, CEO, Canadian Specialist Hospital – one of the leading private sector hospitals in the UAE.
Reports suggest the UAE’s healthcare expenditure rose from US$11.3 billion in 2011 to US$16.8 billion in 2013. Every year the country spends nearly US$1,200 per person on healthcare, which ranks the country among the top 20 worldwide in per capita expenditure. Alpen Capital estimated in 2014 that UAE healthcare spending will expand at 13.1 per cent over the next four years.
The UAE population crossed 9.2 million in 2013, compared to 8.2 million in 2010. “Declining infant mortality and average life expectancy hovering around 77 years have seen the population growing at 2.7 per cent. Meanwhile, 3.3 per cent of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare as high prevalence of lifestyle associated risks like diabetes and obesity, and demand for best-in-class medical care also remain high,” said Dr Al Zubaidy.
On the other hand, the UAE is turning its healthcare challenge into a strategic opportunity. The federal government and governments in different emirates have made healthcare a priority sector capable of driving their sustainable development agenda, mainly by way of advancing investment and tourism. The UAE Vision 2021 states that the country will “invest continually to build world-class healthcare infrastructure, expertise and services in order to fulfil citizens’ growing needs and expectations.”
“In spite of being well-equipped in primary, secondary and tertiary care facilities, many UAE patients travel abroad for treatments, a trend that is now being reversed,” Dr. Zubaidy added referring to the Dubai Medical Tourism (DMT) Club initiative, in which CSH is a member.
Presently, Emiratis travelling abroad for treatment spend roughly US$250,000 per visit, as estimated by the International Medical Travel Journal. DMT brings together healthcare providers and speciality services under the umbrella of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to promote Dubai as a Medical Tourism hub. The city expects over 20 million visitors by 2020, which will help it establish as a key player in the multi-billion dollar medical tourism industry.
“The UAE medical tourism sector has varied advantages – internationally accredited public and private hospitals up to tertiary level, a multinational workforce and fast connections to different geographies, to name a few. Dubai, for example, provides a cost-effective, high quality alternative to patients concerned by healthcare costs and hospital waiting times, even across developed economies such as America and Europe,” said Dr Al Zubaidy.
A key player in the health tourism segment, Canadian Specialist Hospital has been providing diverse range of care starting from comprehensive health check-ups to laparoscopic neurosurgery for hundreds of patients from abroad, particularly from Eastern Europe, Africa and other countries in the Middle East.
If a patient wishes to avail of a treatment in CSH, the hospital makes all the necessary arrangements for the patients and relatives, inclusive of visa, accommodation, consultation, admission and transportation. The hospital has been reaccredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), the world’s largest healthcare accreditor, in recognition of the hospital’s continuing commitment to patient safety, quality and ethical practices.
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