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Medical Tourism in the United Arab Emirates

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa ()

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the number one destination for medical tourism in the Middle East, with an estimated 4.3 million medical tourists seeking treatment in the country. In 2010 the medical tourism sector is expected to generate AE$ 1.7 billion (US$ 462 million). It is estimated that the second half of 2010 will see an increase of 13% compared to the same time last year - an indication of the strengthening demand for healthcare and the medical tourism industry. The UAE is becoming a prime medical tourist destination due to its developed infrastructure, specialist doctors, state-of-the-art medical centres, and modern technology. These factors, together with a community which caters for sizable numbers of expatriates, have allowed the medical sector to develop and meet the needs of the patients from western countries. The Dubai based Canadian Specialist Hospital is one of the Middle East's most well established healthcare providers, catering to approximately 1500 American patients each month. The Chairman of the Canadian Specialist Hospital - Mohammed Rashid Al Falasi said "Treatment rates in the UAE are lower than overseas hospitals, while the country's hospitals and healthcare centres offer a higher level of diagnostic, curative and rehabilitative services." The UAE has been able to provide medical services at a lower cost - when compared to North America and European counterparts in the private sector - with no waiting times in modern, fully equipped facilities. These factors provide significant incentives to patients who would otherwise face long waiting periods for treatment in public healthcare facilities in their home countries. Demand for medical tourism has escalated over the years, driven by deteriorating national healthcare services, extortionate medical costs and long waiting times. This has contributed to strong demand for affordable medical treatment performed by highly trained medical specialists in state-of-the-art facilities. Competition in the medical tourism industry is increasing with Malaysia promoting its healthcare facilities in the Gulf, emphasizing its lower cost base and its appeal as a tourist destination. Singapore, India, Thailand and China also provide high quality and cheaper medical care compared to the UAE, but the UAE still has the ambition to establish itself as a specialist medical care provider in the Gulf region. The UAE continues to invest in the healthcare sector and to face the challenges arising from international markets; the comparatively higher cost of recruiting top medical professionals to the region poses a particular drawback. The challenges are exacerbated by residents in the Gulf region being prepared to travel to Singapore, India, China and Southeast Asia for treatment because of the availability of advanced care and lower charges. Dubai Healthcare City is at the forefront of the medical sector and the medical tourism industry in the UAE. It offers a dedicated project designed to provide healthcare excellence across a wide range of specialties and meets international standards for healthcare quality. This consists of more than 90 medical facilities and 1,700 healthcare professionals, with the presence of global medical brands such as UK's Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital, Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson. However, the ability for the UAE to compete on price is a matter of concern, as the average cost of heart bypass surgery in the UAE amounts to US$44,000. This compares with an average cost of US$18,500 in Singapore, US$11,000 in Thailand, US$10,000 in India and US$9,000 in Malaysia, although a similar medical procedure is more expensive in the US where the cost is approximately US$ 130,000 or US$ 51,000 in a private hospital in the UK. The UAE is facing strong competition from the Asian medical tourism industry, where the sector has been established for many years. The Asian market continues to develop and expand its influence, catering for international patients seeking medical treatment from cosmetic surgery to heart bypasses, with India being the dominant medical tourist destination; by 2014 it is forecast that the industry will be worth US$62.9 billion in India alone. Although the UAE is developing its medical tourism industry region, Asian destinations such as Singapore, India and Thailand are the market leaders for providing medical treatment to foreign patients. Further competition will be forthcoming from other countries seeking to exploit the medical tourism industry such the Philippines, Taiwan and Latin American nations. Companies Mentioned: Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) Dubai Healthcare CityDubai Healthcare City was launched in 2002, to meet the demand for high-quality, patient-centred healthcare. DHCC is home to two hospitals, over 90 outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories with over 1,700 licensed professionals occupying 4.1 million square feet in the heart of Dubai. Canadian Specialist Hospital Canadian Specialist Hospital - UAE Canadian Specialist Hospital was designed to deliver superior quality, inpatient and outpatient medical care in a luxurious environment, providing utmost comfort to patients and visitors.
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