Hot spot in medical tourism |
Khaleej Times - 05 July, 2012
Dubai is fast emerging as cost-effective destination for quality healthcare solutions
Dimitri K (full name withheld at request) flew all the way from Ukraine to Dubai for a complicated reconstructive dental surgery.
After the doctors in his home town left his teeth in what he calls ‘a horrible state’, Dimitri decided to come to Dubai because “a friend once mentioned in passing that there are a lot of good dental clinics in Dubai. I don’t know much about the cost, but I am happy with the outcome,” said Dimitri. A businessman by profession, Dimitri is not new to the UAE. He knows all the tourist hot spots in the country.
When Khaleej Times asked him if he would consider the UAE the next big potential hub for medical tourism, he said: “Yes, maybe.”
Taking advantage of the several cost-saving opportunities that exist beyond our immediate neighbourhood is what medical tourism is to most people.
Government authorities, private firms, and experts have come forward to suggest that the UAE might just be the next big cost effective medical tourism destination. According to figures provided by the Dubai Health Care City (DHCC), the city welcomed more than 9.3 million visitors and tourists in 2011 and is projected to grow at an annual 7.2 per cent through 2015. Health tourism in the city is expected to generate Dh6.1 billion by the end of 2012.
Ayesha Abdullah, Managing Director of DHCC, said: “At DHCC, we have recorded a sharp growth in medical tourism over the past three years. We received over 502,000 patients in 2011 including 15 per cent medical tourists, as compared to 10 per cent of a total of 412,000 patients in 2010. We believe that there is potential for further growth.”
Meanwhile, the Director-General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA,) Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, said that they have been working on this in the background for a while, building up on other initiatives linked to medical tourism, such as the clinical services capacity plan. “The revenues from Medical Tourism are estimated at $ 30 billion. We believe that medical tourism is a space that involves and impacts various sectors within Dubai. Its growth would lead to a positive impact on the economy as well as be a driver for trade and investment in healthcare, tourism and hospitality services,”
said Al Murooshid.
Currently, Dubai has over 4,750 doctors/physicians speaking over 40 languages. Experts in the medical field believe that the emirate is ready for medical tourism.
Cost of medical tourism
“The UAE, and particularly Dubai, offers quality healthcare solutions that largely measure up against cost-competitive destinations such as Thailand and India.
The figures show that a cardiac bypass costing around $ 130,000 in the US can be had for $ 44,000 in the UAE,” said Abdullah. Adding to which, Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA, said: “The costs here are definitely cheaper than the US for comparable quality of services. However, many people believe that medical tourism means lower cost which isn’t necessarily true. Price of services is an important component but not the only component in making the choice for the medical tourism destination,” said Al Jassmi.
She added that people travel abroad for different reasons for different types of services.
In Dubai itself, there are various facilities that offer the same services at different prices and their services are targeted at different market segments.
Also, we do not intend to compete with ‘low cost’ destinations for medical tourism.
“In the past we have noticed that medical travellers have come to Dubai for cosmetic procedures, dental treatment and even hip-replacements. Today, Dubai has strategically positioned itself as a leading provider of top-quality care in diverse areas with a focus on niche services,” added Abdullah. In the long term, DHCC seeks to provide high-end tertiary care.
“In line with our mission to respond to emerging healthcare needs, we plan to add centres for oncology, genetic disorders and diabetes in an effort to expand the medical tourism segment. We are also in the process of closing gaps in services by adding facilities such as rehab, paediatrics and integrated medicine,” she added.
Adding to this, DHA officials said that there are various opinions on this from health professionals considering their areas of expertise. “The specialties that Dubai is well suited to medical tourists include a host of medical, cosmetic and dental procedures along with wellness treatments and health check ups.
Dubai gets tourists from over 120 different nationalities and a number of them are utilising healthcare services in Dubai for various reasons.
There is a considerable growth in the demand for these services by tourists from the GCC, North and East Africa, Central Asia as well as for certain health and wellness services by tourists from Europe and South Asia,” said Al Jassmi.Scope for Alternative treatments Over the last few years we have seen a growing trend in patients choosing Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). “To date, DHCC is home to 12 CAM medical centres, more than 50 CAM-licensed professionals who offer treatment in 14 areas including homeopathy, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani medicine, osteopathy, therapeutic massage, naturopathy, guided imagery, Thai Chi, Pilates, chiropractic, and yoga,” said Abdullah.
Al Jassmi assured that DHA would look into the growth of alternative medicines very seriously. “The growth of alternative treatments in the region is definitely something that we’ll look at and consider seriously.
There are many successes in this space in parts of Europe and South Asia and some of these services are going to be promoted to the extent they tie up with Dubai’s Medical Tourism Strategy,” she added.