Dubai eyes medical tourism capital to cash in on $19.5bn global healthcare market

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Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, targets revenue generation by serving as a gateway and a hub for medical tourism by 2020.

Regulators such as Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), Dubai Future Foundation/Dubai Future Accelerators and Healthcare industry stakeholders are working in tandem to achieve this goal.

In 2016, healthcare accounted for 3.6% of Dubai’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Dubai, which has established itself as a major international medical tourism destination, has created an integrated, patient-centric ecosystem underpinned by Dubai Health Strategy 2021 to achieve healthcare excellence.

With its world-class medical facilities infrastructure and a burgeoning number of public and private healthcare companies providing excellent service, Dubai is fast becoming a major international hub for the global healthcare industry.

Globally renowned hospitals, outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories have launched facilities in Dubai to capitalise on the strong projected growth in the healthcare market.

3,100 Licensed health facilities

Dubai’s health sector has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, with a number of licensed health facilities growing to 3,100 by April 2018 from approximately 2,800 facilities in 2014 with a growth of approximately 4% each year.

This increase includes private hospitals, specialised health centres, pharmacies, diagnostic centres and dental centres.

38,500 Licensed medical professionals

In the same period, the number of licensed medical professionals has grown from 30,600 in 2014 to 38,500 in April 2018, at a blistering rate of approximately 8% every year.

98% of resident population covered by mandatory health insurance

The growth is supported by a rise in population, rising utilisation of health services specifically in the private sector, the implementation of mandatory health insurance, which has seen approximately 98% of Dubai’s resident population covered by health insurance and a rise in spending in healthcare on the back of growing confidence in the health system and improved access to specialised health services in the Emirate of Dubai.

Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021

The Dubai Health Strategy 2016 – 2021 implementation is on track.

The strategy has been chalked out after comprehensive research and analysis, and is divided into three phases – immediate, medium and long-term.

Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 has more than 100 initiatives

The strategy has 15 programmes and more than 100 initiatives under those programmes so that Dubai can implement, track and monitor progress.

Some of the key initiatives

Dubai has achieved significant progress in several key initiatives such as the implementation of the electronic medical records, utilisation of new technologies such as 3D printing in healthcare, the launch of the mental health strategy for Dubai and the Dubai School Health Policy, among others.

Improved patient care

It is expected that the initiatives will directly lead to improved patient care, as well as help provide support and guidance to healthcare providers and businesses in the health sector in the emirate.

Dubai leads the way for private sector participation in healthcare in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Private sector healthcare providers in Dubai

The private sector healthcare providers in Dubai have contributed to developing a strong health ecosystem and account for over 79% of the utilisation for outpatient services, and over 74% of inpatient services.

Role of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

This is in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Increase in demand for quality health services

Increase in demand for quality health services due to Dubai’s rapid urban development, population growth and influx of medical tourists is one of biggest opportunities for private sector providers and investors in the health sector.

Many of the world’s largest hospitals and specialised centres have invested in Dubai’s healthcare sector after realising the city’s unique investment climate, which provides a number of investment incentives in the healthcare sector.

Global and regional hub for innovation

The excellent infrastructure and competitive, investor-friendly business environment in Dubai, combined with Dubai’s position as a global and regional hub for innovation and talent, along with new investment initiatives by government and government related entities, have opened up huge opportunities for private sector providers.

Foreign Direct Investment in healthcare

Dubai has committed to promoting investments in the health sector, aimed at driving Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows where healthcare needs and gaps exist in the health ecosystem.

In the past, investment has been mainly on greenfield investments to set up clinics and hospitals, but in the future, Dubai plans to see more consolidation through mergers and acquisitions.

Pharma and medtech to support

The city also anticipates investments to set up ancillary services, as well as in pharma and medtech to support the booming health investment needs in the Middle East and North Africa region, and Dubai is well positioned as a gateway and a hub to serve the region.

Home-based health services in focus

In Dubai¸ there is a growing acceptance among healthcare regulators, investors and providers to look at models of care beyond curative services delivered in the hospital and to focus particularly, on preventative care, disease management and extended care, which includes home-based health services.

While innovative and disruptive models need proactive investment facilitation support by regulators, it is imperative for regulators in Dubai to review policies and legislations that could enable the licensing of the facilities and applications, and encourage their roll out and set up to improve access to patient services for the community.

This should be supported by health insurance coverage and inclusion in health insurers’ networks for facilities and applications providing the health services.

Doing this would really support Dubai in developing a sustainable health system supported by private sector investment, and make Dubai a world-class destination for medical practice and treatments.

The city sees the private sector as a key stakeholder in developing and offering specialised health services across the care continuum.

Incentives for smart health initiatives

Dubai has high interest and appetite for investment in smart health initiatives in Dubai, and various investment free zones offer attractive incentives and setup support for such new age setups that are focusing on health technologies and innovations.

Incubator programmes

Dubai boasts of a number of incubator programmes to support health technology innovation, and DHA’s efforts with the Dubai Future Accelerator programme is a testament to the commitment and support to develop a robust health ecosystem supported by technology and innovation.

Licensing of telehealth companies

Dubai is licensing telehealth companies and over the past 12-18 months, several new companies that have established their base in Dubai started rolling out or in the process of rolling out patient services.

Source: The Finder Newspaper

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Kennedy Mornah is an Award Winning Ghanaian Journalist with over two decades of experience in the Ghanaian Media landscape spanning the electronic, print and digital media. He is a Media Consultant, a Corporate MC, Radio and TV Host, Founder and Publisher of the Maritime and Transport Digest Newspaper, Businessman, a Go getter and an optimist. He has worked for renowned media organizations including Diamond Fm in Tamale, Luv Fm in Kumasi, Oman Fm in Accra and Starr Fm in Accra In 2017 he received the Reporter of the Year Award at the Ghana Shippers Awards in Accra, Ghana.

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