Dubai has ambitious plans to position itself to attract a major share of the $100 billion global medical tourism industry.
Recent studies have estimated medical tourism to be worth around $100 billion worldwide annually. Currently, medical tourism in the UAE is worth $1.6 billion, most of it derived from Dubai. The government of Dubai has identified the medical tourism industry as a key component of its economic development plans, and has ambitious plans to position itself to attract a major share of this $100 billion industry.
Dubai has positioned itself well in the region, and has leveraged its comparative advantages, such as its innovative healthcare industry, connectivity, and well-qualified medical personnel. Dubai ranks 17th out of 25 countries in the world engaging in medical tourism, the 7th in Asia, and the 2nd in the MENA region, according to the Medical Tourism Destination Index published by the Medical Tourism Association in 2014. Dubai aims to become one of the top 10 medical tourism destinations in the world, and the fastest growing medical tourism destination globally by 2020.
According to figures from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai treated 107,000 international medical tourists in 2012, 120,000 in 2013, 135,000 in 2014, and 296,000 in 2015. The DHA expects that medical visitor numbers will grow by around 12% annually. Dubai aims to attract more than 500,000 international medical tourists and generate around $710 million per annum by 2020.
The government of Dubai announced its medical tourism strategy in 2014 in order to strengthen the Emirate’s position of becoming the top preferred destination for the medical tourism industry. Increasing investments, hiring the best medical staff, and loosening visa restrictions are key elements of this strategy. In accordance with this strategy, Dubai’s government launched the world’s first electronic medical tourism portal, Dubai Health Experience, in April 2016. The portal provides all health, travel, hospitality, and visa services for medical tourists. The portal will add momentum to Dubai’s emergence as a leading healthcare destination.
The Dubai Medical Tourism Strategy identifies orthopedic and sports medicine, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, dental procedures, dermatology, preventive medicine, and skin care as key areas in which Dubai can provide competitive and cost-effective treatment options to patients from abroad.
In order to fulfill its targets, the DHA announced that 18 private and four public hospitals will be built in the next few years. Dubai currently has more than 2,700 health facilities, and over 25,000 specialists in the medical field. These numbers are expected to grow to 40,000 specialists and 4,000 health centers by 2020.
Dubai Medical Tourism Club (DMTC)
The DMTC has 25 centers signed on as members to develop Dubai’s medical tourism industry. The main goals of the DMTC are to facilitate the Dubai medical tourism program, promoting medical tourism services, and to contribute to the Dubai medical tourism strategy by identifying new markets and services. There are specific eligibility criteria for the DMTC membership. Each facility that wishes to become a member must fulfill these criteria, which include international accreditation and certifications, a given number of years of service in the region, a given number of beds, and a given physician to nurse ratio.
Did you know?
The Dubai government launched the world’s first electronic medical tourism portal, Dubai Health Experience, in April 2016.
Facts & Statistics
Did you know?
Medical tourism has been around for thousands of years. In fact, archaeological evidence from the third millennium B. C. suggests that people in ancient Mesopotamia traveled to the temple of a healing god or goddess at Tell Brak, Syriato heal eye disorders. A couple millennia later the Greeks and Romans would travel by foot or boat to spas and cult centers all over the Mediterranean. The Asclepia Temples, dedicated in honor of the Greek god of medicine, were some of the world’s first healing centers. Pilgrims would come and stay several nights praying that Asclepios would appear in a dream and provide a cure to their ailment.
There are 458 Joint Commission International accredited hospitals around the world. This figure does not include ambulatory clinics. Joint Commission is an independent not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits more than 15,000 healthcare organizations in the United States. Its international arm (Joint Commission International) has been accrediting hospitals outside the U. S. since the late 90’s. JCI accreditation is one of the main criteria patients use to ensure they are traveling to a hospital with high standards of patient care. 1.6 million U. S. patients traveling abroad for care. In 2009, Deloitte predicted that over one and a half million U. S. patients would be traveling abroad for care, with a 35% increase over the next several years.
You may spend more time at a hotel than at a hospital during your medical trip. Depending on your procedure, oftentimes you will only stay a night or two in the hospital and then spend the rest of the time at a hotel recuperating and/ or engaging in physical rehabilitation. So choose a hotel that has experience with medical tourists and understands your needs and expectations.
Your companion could make or break your medical trip. Having the physical and moral support of a companion is one of the most important ingredients of a successful medical trip, particularly during the recovery process. However, not everyone is ideally suited to being a medical travel companion. Choose your companion wisely. Right now it’s all about you. Your companion must be willing to put your needs ahead of his or her own and assist you during the recovery process. This does not mean they cannot have some leisure time to enjoy the local culture and attractions, but they should understand that their primary purpose is to provide support.
MTA Patient Surveys
64% of patients that traveled abroad for care did not have health insurance. Almost 83% of patients traveled with a companion. Almost 70% of patients rated their medical care as excellent. 33% of patients traveled abroad for cosmetic surgery. Almost 90% of patients or their companions engaged in tourism activities. Almost 85% of US patients found they received more personalized medical care than in the US Almost 86% of US patients said they would travel again overseas for medical care Nearly 27% of patients had previously traveled to a foreign country to receive medical care, most were female, all were between ages 45 and 64; the majority were White/Caucasian; all were American; all were college educated; half had household incomes between $50,000 and $100,000; and some had health insurance (50%), while other did not. Nearly 80% of the demand for medical travel is driven by cost savings. Medical tourists spend between $7,475 and $15,833 per medical travel trip. 48% of respondents would be interested in engaging in medical tourism again at some point in the future. The cost of medical treatment (85%) and state-of-the-art technology (83%) were the most important factors in their decision to travel abroad for treatment. Out of 49 participants that had previously traveled overseas for medical treatment, 36% used a medical tourism facilitator.
U. S. Healthcare Statistics
- In 2013, Nerd Wallet Health analyzed data from the U. S. Census, Centers for Disease Control, the federal court system and the Commonwealth Fund and found that:
- 56 million Americans under age 65 will have trouble paying medical bills
- Over 35 million American adults (ages 19-64) will be contacted by collections agencies for unpaid medical bills Over 15 million American adults (ages 19-64) will use up all their savings to pay medical bills Over 11 million American adults (ages 19-64) will take on credit card debt to pay off their hospital bills Nearly 10 million American adults (ages 19-64) will be unable to pay for basic necessities like rent, food, and heat due to their medical bills
Over 16 million children live in households struggling with medical bills Despite having year-round insurance coverage, 10 million insured Americans ages 19-64 will face bills they are unable to pay 1.7 million Americans live in households that will declare bankruptcy due to their inability to pay their medical bills – Three states will account for over one-quarter of those living in medical-related bankruptcy: California (248,002), Illinois (113,524), and Florida (99,780) To save costs, over 25 million adults (ages 19-64) will not take their prescription drugs as indicated, including skipping doses, taking less medicine than prescribed or delaying a refill
According to a recent report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U. S. spends almost 18 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare that’s more than any of the 34 OECD countries. Due to the changes of healthcare reform, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions reported that 60 percent of doctors surveyed revealed they are likely to retire earlier than planned, perhaps, within the next 1-3 years creating a shortage of doctors. In 2009 the Council of Economic Advisers projected that the healthcare sector will comprise of 34% of GDP in the U. S. by 2040.
Medical Tourism statistics from around the world
- A 2013 MTA Medical Tourism Patient Survey found that Latin America and Asia are the two leading regions for medical travel. A 2013 MTA Medical Tourism Patient Survey found that Mexico and India respectively have the highest demand for medical tourism. Data from the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED) shows that in 2012, Costa Rica attracted nearly 50,000 medical tourists (mostly from the U. S. and Canada) and each one spent an average of $7,000. Close to half of these medical travelers were said to be dental, followed by orthopedics, weight loss surgeries, gynecology and plastic surgery. Medical tourism generated some $338 million in revenue for the country that year, PROMED reported. Tourism Research Australia from the Australian Government reported that more than 10,000 medical tourism patients flew into the continent in 2013 pumping more than $26 million into the national economy. According to the Indian High Commission, Indian hospitals received 18,000 Nigerians on medical visas in 2012, 47% of the Nigerians were in India to receive medical treatment and spent approximately $260 million USD. In 2012 the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand and the Kasikorn Research Center found that 2,530,000 international patients traveled to Thailand for treatment, the top five nationalities were; Japan, U. S. UK, GCC and Australia. Revenues generated from medical tourism were approximately 4 Billion USD. Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism said that almost 12 million international visitors arrived in Mexico in 2013, 6.5 million of the visitors were from the U. S. According to the Medellin Healthcare Cluster, twenty-four percent of the international patients that visit the Medellin Health City in Medellin, Columbia are from the U. S. The Korea Health Industry Development Institute reported in 2012 that 159,464 patients from 188 countries visited Korea in 2012, 32,503 of those patients were Chinese. In the 2010 Statistics on International Patients in Korea Report showed that 81,789 foreign patients traveled to Korea, 32.4 percent came from the U. S. (4,829 were U. S. Army patients), 19.4 percent Chinese,16.8 percent Japanese and 7.7 percent Russian. According to Rohini Sridhar, Chief Operating Officer of Apollo Hospitals, the number of international patients visiting the hospital has been witnessing an increase of 20 per cent every year. “We provide medical care for around 400 to 500 people from European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Middle East in a year,” she says. A 2012 report from the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare found that more than 60,000 patients traveled to Taiwan for healthcare the previous year, with 50 percent of patients coming from mainland China. The report also noted that the most popular procedure was a full health exam. According to Alpen Capital Investment Banking, the United Arab Emirates’ medical tourism sector is growing strongly and reached $1.69 billion in 2013. Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is one of the largest healthcare tourist destinations in the region. According to DHCC, they handled approximately 500,000 patients in 2011, 20% of which were medical tourists.