Healthcare providers in the private sector in Dubai have contributed to developing a strong health ecosystem.
Dubai - Noted players realise emirate's unique investment climate, which provides a number of investment incentives
Dubai's healthcare sector will continue to see a steady growth over the next few years, driven by a growing population and several landmark projects, and cementing its position as an attractive destination for investments, experts said.
Dr Ibtesam AlBastaki, director of investment and PPP's Department at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said that Dubai leads the way for private sector participation in the healthcare industry in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
"Healthcare providers in the private sector in Dubai have contributed to developing a strong health ecosystem, which accounts for over 79 per cent of the utilisation for outpatient services, and over 74 per cent of inpatient services. 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 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," she said.
According to the Dubai Health Investment Guide 2018-25, Dubai's healthcare sector accounts for 3.6 per cent of the emirate's GDP. This figure is likely to increase substantially in parallel with Dubai's population, which is expected to reach 4.2 million inhabitants in 2025. Currently, 83 per cent of Dubai's population is between 15 and 64 years old, with a high prevalence of chronic and non-communicable diseases. The guide also showed that the UAE is amongst the countries with a mortality rate due to cardiovascular diseases reaching 147.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, up to three times higher than the UK or Australia.
The country also has a diabetes prevalence ratio reaching 17.3 per cent in the population aged 20 to 79; this is two to four times higher than Australia or the UK. However, several professionals noted that the prevention and early detection landscape is changing rapidly to include additional screening services as part of mandatory health insurance.
"To meet the growing developments and private sector investment in the Dubai healthcare, the DHA is developing its regulatory standards to ensure the delivery of high medical standards that exceed expectations, and to provide the emirate with skilled and highly qualified health professionals," said Dr Marwan Al Mulla, CEO of Health Regulations Sector at the DHA.
Experts also noted that several hospitals and specialised centres have already invested in Dubai's healthcare sector after realising the city's unique investment climate. "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 challenges facing the Dubai Health Authority," said Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qutami, director-general of the DHA. "Many of 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."
Dubai's excellent infrastructure and competitive, investor-friendly business environment, combined with the emirate's position as a global and regional hub for innovation and talent, along with new investment initiatives by the government and government related entities have opened up huge opportunities for private sector providers.
"The growth we see 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 per cent of Dubai's resident population covered by health insurance, as of September 3, 2018. The growth will also be driven by an increase in healthcare spending due to growing confidence in the health system and improved access to specialised health services in the emirate of Dubai," AlBastaki said.
She added that there is a growing acceptance among healthcare regulators, investors and providers in Dubai 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 us as regulators to review policies and legislations that could enable the licensing of these facilities and applications, and encourage their roll out and set up to improve access to patient services for the community, also supported by health insurance coverage and inclusion in health insurers' networks for facilities and applications providing these health services. Doing this would really support us in developing a sustainable health system, and make Dubai a world-class destination for medical practice and treatments," she said.
Dubai will also continue to cement its position as a leading health tourism hub with scalable growth opportunities. Over 326,000 health tourists came to Dubai in 2016, generating over Dh1 billion in total healthcare revenue. The DHA's objective is to attract over 500,000 health tourists by 2020. The top four specialities requested by health tourists were: orthopaedics, ophthalmology, dental and fertility treatment. In 2016, 37 per cent of health tourists came from Asia and 15 per cent from Europe. A travel insurance programme specifically designed for health tourists travelling to Dubai has been introduced to support health tourism.