Dubai’s New Six-Year Health Strategy: How plausible is it?
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Dubai’s New Six-Year Health Strategy: How plausible is it?

The new Dubai Health Strategy 2021 has been released, with the stated goal of making the Emirate a regional medical hub, as well as greatly increasing medical tourism and associated revenue. Are the goals obtainable? Read on to find out more.

Dubai Plan 2021, the larger government plan for Dubai as a whole for the next 5 years, has arrived. Already we know that one aspect of this plan will be a focus on the people of Dubai, their happiness, and their quality of life. Part of this includes health. Not only is this measured by the longevity of Dubai citizens from birth, but another aim of the strategy is to enable “individuals who take care of their own wellbeing and that of their family to manage their health”. These are worthy goals, to be sure.

Beyond Dubai Plan 2021, however, is another multi-year plan that specifically outlines Dubai’s healthcare goals for the next 5-6 years. This is known as Dubai Health Strategy 2021, and it was launched by his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in January of 2016. Those who look at all that the strategy sets out to do may feel that its goals are rather lofty, but those that stand behind it no doubt steadfastly believe that the goals are not only possible, but also necessary for making the health and medical landscape of Dubai all that it can be. Which side of the argument is to be believed? Here, we delve into the topic and discuss whether or not Dubai Health Strategy 2021 will be a success.


The strategy

There is quite a hierarchy of items within the Dubai Health Strategy. It starts out with 6 objectives:

  • Developing an effective system in collaboration with the private and public sectors

  • Creating an integrated database to be used for the smart government policy

  • Improving efficiency in providing health care

  • Achieving innovation in the sector

  • Providing a high quality comprehensive and integrated health service system

  • Ensuring a healthy and safe environment in Dubai

And 4 main approaches to achieve them:

  • Governance

  • Smart healthcare

  • Excellence in providing

  • Health and lifestyle

However, when you dig into the strategy further, we also find that it encompasses 15 programmes and an additional 93 initiatives regarding health in Dubai, which can be a lot to take in all at once.  All of this is meant to tie back to one overarching goal for the Emirate: Become a regional medical hub. In order to achieve this, Dubai would like to see the number of medical tourists in the Emirate rise from 170,000 in 2016 to 500,000 by 2020. Revenue from these tourists should then rise from Dhs 1.1 billion this year to Dhs 2.6 billion by 2020. More than doubling numbers that already seem rather strong would appear to not be an easy feat, so how will Dubai pull this off? Now that we have defined the goals of the Strategy going forward, we can point to reasons why it will or will not be successful.


The Dubai Health Strategy 2021 will be a success

Within Dubai Health Strategy 2021 there are particular new regulations that are believed to be a boon to the future of Dubai’s medical tourism. These include regulations surrounding:

  • Obstetrics and gynaecology

  • Colon hydrotherapy and colonic irrigation guidelines

  • Hair transplant service standards

  • Sleep laboratory guidelines

  • Revisions on laser and hair reduction standards

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy service standards

  • Oncology services

Next, Dubai is enabling itself to meet its goals by having the infrastructure in place to handle the additional patient load. New hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities (of which there are almost 3,000, with 10 more private hospitals set to open between 2015 and 2017) are opening all the time in Dubai, and with more set for the future, it seems that there will be enough beds to handle 500,000 medical tourists a year. Of course, the additional revenue brought in by medical tourists will only aid in furthering construction in the future as well.

Additionally, it seems that, by some metrics, Dubai is already running well ahead of schedule to meet its goals. For example, it has been reported that in 2015 medical tourist number had already reached 256,000+.

Finally, one of the competitive advantages held by hospitals in Dubai is the very high levels of customer service that the UAE has become known for. When service is a consideration that rivals cost in a person’s mind, Dubai is likely to jump to the top of their list as a destination for healthcare.


The Dubai Health Strategy 2021 will not be a success

One reason that the Dubai Health Strategy may not achieve its goals for growing medical tourism and creating a regional medical hub is that it’s priorities may not be laid out correctly. For instance,reports from 2014 stated that fertility treatment topped the list of medical tourism services in that year, yet there are no new regulations addressing this type of treatment in the Strategy. By not playing to the local medical tourism industry’s strengths, Dubai may be missing out on one of its biggest draws. Also, by focusing on specific niches, such as cosmetic surgery, the Emirate may have success in certain areas, while still not seeing the big picture.

Another reason people may doubt the legitimacy of any claims of success is in the way thatmedical tourists themselves are counted. Is a UAE citizen that lives outside of Dubai that receives treatment here a medical tourist? Of course, if you ask many health administrators and government officials in Dubai the answer is yes. However, if you take these individuals out of the medical tourist math, the overall numbers fall dramatically. After all, medical tourists from the UAE currently make up approximately 60% or more of current medical tourist totals.

Lastly, a major challenge to Dubai’s aspirations of being a regional medical tourism hub is that other countries are striving for the same. Countries in South or Southeast Asia such as Thailand, India, Singapore and Malaysia all consistently rank as top medical tourism destinations. On the European side, Turkey and Hungary are also locales that could steal Dubai’s thunder. It’s important to recognize that Dubai not only has to improve itself, but also appeal to medical tourists more than the competition. Price is a major concern here, as Dubai healthcare prices are often higher than in the previously mentioned countries.

If the strategy is successful, there likely won’t be much reason for Dubai residents to leave the Emirate for medical care, but they will no doubt still want to have access to high quality medical care no matter where in the world they find themselves. That’s why the types of International Health Insurance plans offered by UAE Medical Insurance are so attractive to expats and people that travel on a regular basis, as well as those outside of Dubai that may want to travel to the Emirate for medical care. To find out more about these plans and the benefits they offer, as well as to get a free price quote and plan comparison,contact the knowledgeable experts at UAE Medical Insurance today.


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