Dubai's advantages as the new medical tourism hub
For many visitors, Dubai's healthcare system offers them an opportunity to get quick access to doctors and services.
Dubai has numerous advantages that make it a prime destination for medical tourists, according to medical tourism facilitators and locally based healthcare professionals.
For many visitors, Dubai's healthcare system offers them an opportunity to get quick access to doctors and services, particularly in cases in which their country of origin's own healthcare infrastructure system is overloaded, which may result in unacceptably long waiting times.
"In some countries, waiting time is a matter of months," said Dr Reem Osman, the CEO of Saudi German Hospital Dubai. "People will want to travel and not wait six to eight months for treatment."
Additionally, Dr Osman noted that in many cases Dubai has "more acceptable" costs than that might be available in their own countries, as well as the convenience than can come with multiple check-ups being done at once.
"In general, people don't (necessarily) travel from place to place for smaller things," she said. "Or maybe they can come and have five or six doctor consultations at the same time. They might not be able to find it in (one place) where they are."
"Also, people mainly travel when they need surgery and they don't have (access to) the available surgeries," she added. "For example, for all types of cancer treatments, we see mainly patients from Africa where those treatments might not be available."
Samer Mazahreh, a medical tourism consultant responsible for establishing Salamatek, the first licensed medical tourism facilitator in Dubai, noted that the availability of healthcare tourism 'facilitators' in Dubai means that much of the planning process for a visit can be conducted on their behalf.
"In short, for a patient to get in touch with multiple doctors and get medical opinions and price quotes takes anywhere from a week to four weeks. A facilitator can get the patient the same medical opinions with better prices within two to three days, not to mention they'd have vetted the doctors," he said.
Mazahreh also said that, for many, Dubai's geographic location and ease of inbound travel makes it the most convenient option.
"Instead of sending patients to Europe or North America, and patients having to go on long flights and suffering through costly and lengthy visa procedures and possible waiting lists, these patents are now being directed to Dubai," he said. "All the hassles and anxieties mentioned.are removed from the travel plan."
Once in Dubai, Mazahreh added, patients have access to the "highest and latest" technologies that might prove beneficial in their treatment.
"Some technologies are not available elsewhere in the region," he noted.
Mazahreh also noted that Dubai's cosmopolitan and diverse nature means that patients can find healthcare facilities in which their native language is spoken.
"English is widely spoken and native speakers of a vast array of languages exist," he said, noting that Salamatek's own medical partners have staff who speak a diverse array of languages, ranging from Mandarin, Swahili and Russian to Urdu, Sinhala, Pashto and Tagalog.
Pawel Cebula of Medigo, for his part, said that Dubai has the additional advantage that people can combine leisure or business with their medical tourism visit.
"It's already a popular business destination, and now it's an increasingly popular tourist destination, too," he said. "Ticking both boxes sets it apart from traditional destinations like Thailand, Mexico and Hungary, which are popular options for tourism but less so for business."
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