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One-fourth of patients in UAE want to go abroad for treatment

One-fourth of patients in UAE want to go abroad for treatment

The ‘Quality of Service’ survey reveals patients are satisfied with the Emirates’ current healthcare provisions, have concerns over doctor quality and healthcare costs.

By Kelly Clarke/staff Reporter

Published: Wed 17 Jun 2015, 1:23 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Dubai - Though patients in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah say they are satisfied with the Emirates’ current healthcare provisions, a new survey has revealed that 24 per cent of residents here — including 25 per cent of UAE nationals — are still choosing to seek medical treatment abroad.

The ‘Quality of Service’ survey, commissioned by Ethos Integrated Solutions, also revealed that patients continue to have concerns over doctor quality and healthcare costs.

Surveying 1,000 residents aged between 18 and 56, results showed that 62.9 per cent of participants felt the cost of healthcare was “too high”, despite health insurance cover.

“Though health insurance is mandatory here, not everyone receives the same coverage. Many people are having to pay for things here that they didn’t have to back home,” founder and CEO of Ethos, Robert Keay, told Khaleej Times.

Seven key healthcare destinations were also named as the preferred source of treatment, with better doctors, service, lower cost and specialised diagnosis facilities cited as some of the reasons for going abroad.

When it comes to who prefers to go where, UAE nationals tend to travel to the US and Germany for treatment, Western expats to the UK and Singapore, Arab expats to Egypt and Jordan, and Asian expats to India.

The most likely to seek treatment abroad was Western expatriates, closely followed by Asian expatriates.

The survey did however reveal that 72.7 per cent of participants were “satisfied” with the overall healthcare provisions — especially UAE nationals.

Questioned on the satisfaction levels of eight specific areas including staff skill/competency, and doctor-patient information exchange, the survey revealed a disparity between emirates when it comes to doctor quality.

Though quality of doctor service rated 69.5 per cent overall, 44 per cent admitted seeking a second opinion, however said it was doctors in Sharjah who fared best as they were most likely to be recommended by friends or family.

But the need for more experienced, specialists doctors is required if we want to see a decrease in the number of people seeking second opinions, Kaey said.

“One in four people still want to go abroad for medical treatment though and that is largely down to the fact that there is not enough specialist care doctors here. The fact that locals are still choosing to seek treatment abroad is quite astonishing.”

With increased patient engagement noted as the key to building a stronger healthcare future, the UAE is witnessing a huge drive to move it into the realm of medical tourism.

However, with independent surveys like this the only current source for patient satisfaction ratings, it is imperative a universally adopted measure of national patient satisfaction is implemented in the UAE, sooner rather than later.

“We live in a place where the government is keen to strive for excellence. Currently, the federal government adopt a role which measures the performance of each government department. Over time I would like to see an extension of this which focuses on patient experience,” Kaey said.

Figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently revealed the per capita spend on healthcare in the UAE reached $1,569 in 2013, ranking it within the Top 50 countries globally.

However, the WHO’s ranking for healthcare systems proves the UAE still falls behind its GCC competitors, with Oman ranked eighth, Saudi Arabia 26th and the UAE  27th. -kelly@khaleejtimes.com

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