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UAE healthcare: Easy, efficient, accessible

The government has a vision for healthcare to improve the already state-of-the-art facilities by 2021.
The government has a vision for healthcare to improve the already state-of-the-art facilities by 2021.

The UAE has a comprehensive, government-funded healthcare system and a rapidly developing private sector that delivers a high standard of care.

Published: Mon 31 Aug 2020, 8:33 AM

Last updated: Mon 31 Aug 2020, 10:37 AM

The UAE has a highly developed health infrastructure and the standard of healthcare is high. In 2018, the UAE was ranked one of the top 10 most efficient healthcare systems in the world. Medical facilities are modern and easily accessible for both locals and expats alike. Both public and private hospitals offer premium healthcare.
The UAE healthcare sector appears to be following a path similar to that seen at a regional level. From 2013 to 2017, the number of hospitals in the Emirates has grown from 107 to 137. Prominent names include American Hospital Dubai, RAK Hospital and Medcare Hospitals & Medical Centres.  

As of 2017, this comprises a total of approximately 13,200 hospital beds, representing a CAGR of 4.8 per cent in that period. Similar to the expenditure pattern across the GCC, there is a predominance of government related expenditure. In 2018, the UAE government contributed 66 per cent of the country's total healthcare spending of $15 billion. Going forward the private sector is expected to witness stronger growth. From 2018 to 2022, the private sector healthcare spend is set to grow at a CAGR of 9.5 per cent compared the government contribution of 4.4 per cent. This is mainly supported by:

- Rising emergence and support for PPP in the UAE healthcare sector
- Increase in the aging population is anticipated to escalate demand for treatments and hospital beds
- Privatisation of hospitals and mandatory medical insurance, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, will continue to encourage spending and contribute to a more integrated health system

The healthcare system in the UAE is of fundamental importance to the country. So much so, the government has a vision for healthcare to improve the already state-of-the-art facilities by 2021. Even so, existing facilities such as JTS Medical Centre has expanded its services by recently opening the dental department with paediatric dentistry, oral surgery and orthodontic specialities.

Regional development
Opportunities to educate and develop UAE medical professionals within the nation are expanding - the landscaping is changing. Today, the country is home to multiple medical universities across the emirates providing local and international students access to education including from medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and nursing among other fields. Furthermore, as per the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) Strategy 2016-2021, a government directive supports Dubai's aims to attract, retain, and develop the healthcare workforce, with a goal of providing access to world-class educational opportunities.

Medical tourism
The country has witnessed a continuous increase in medical tourism, with visitors seeking treatments ranging from major surgery to rehabilitation and cosmetic corrections. In 2016, the Medical Tourism Index indicated that Dubai and Abu Dhabi were respectively ranked as the 16th and 25th best global destinations for medical tourism. Healthcare in the UAE is known to be among some of the finest in the world. In fact, it's actually estimated there are 181 doctors per 100,000 residents. Furthermore, in 2018 there was $3.3 million worth of medical sales in the country; that's an increase of 5.5 per cent in one year. The top areas for medical tourism include orthopedics, sports medicine, dermatology, dentistry, and fertility treatment.

The UAE launched medical tourism portals, which allow medical tourists to book procedures and access a wide range of tourism services such as direct contact with healthcare providers, visa issuance, hotels, and other recreational activities.

Health insurance
Since 2014, health insurance in the country had witnessed fastest growth pertaining to the government's rollout of a three-year plan, to cover the health needs of all workers in the country, including that of foreign workers who constitute about 80 per cent of the entire working population in the country.

In 2016, Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) had made certain amendments in its health insurance programme, with people getting health benefits at private healthcare facilities receive about 80 per cent of the coverage of the fees for treatment, whereas those who get government health assistance receive 100 per cent coverage. The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Abu Dhabi has resulted in an immediate rise in the healthcare services of over 40 per cent.

The rapid development of the healthcare sector over the last decade, driven by government and private funding, has certainly put regional healthcare provision on the global map. Now, with the sector gradually maturing, it is key for existing healthcare players and new entrants to align their business model to today's regulatory changes and shifting market conditions.

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