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Are United Arab Emirates and Gulf Coast Countries still a source of patients?
A research by Destination Health and Royalty Consultants sheds some insights

In the past couple of years, changes in Healthcare strategy in the UAE have not only deeply improved the offer of medical services to the local population, but also modified the flows of Medical Tourism. As the Emirates, Dubai in particular, are increasingly set to become a Medical Tourism destination, what happens to the outgoing patients? Will this area still be a source for Medical Tourism?
Destination Health, the first advisor brand and network for the Internationalization of healthcare providers, and its partner Royalty Consultants have run a research about development and opportunities of healthcare sector in Gulf Coast Countries, with a specific focus on Medical Tourism. Here are some key findings:

  • Demand for healthcare in these countries will grow in the next decade and, in 2020, the global spend is estimated to reach 69 billion USD, peaking 144 billion USD considering the whole MENA area.
  • Lifestyle risk factors and prevalence of cronic diseases (such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments, mental health disorders) are the main causes of this growth. Obesity rate for GCC nationals stands an average of 40%, one of the highest in the world (above all in Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman).
  • While local Governments of UAE promote investment in health infrastructures and experience an inbound medical tourism growth of 15% annually, Dubai Health Authority, DHA, is nevertheless investing in improving policies and services for its patients seeking treatment abroad by making the medical and administrative process simpler.
  • However, due to lack of specialized services in GCC or long waiting lists most, or a relevant part of patients in UAE and other GCC still feel more confident in traveling abroad for healthcare.
  • When it comes to treatment abroad, Oncology is the mostly seeked specialty for 22% of patients. Brain is however the most important single organ in terms of treatments with Neurology and Neurosurgery accounting for over 17% of patients.
  • Average cost for patient has increased 60% in just one year
  • Over the next 20 years, demand for treatments will rise on average by 240%. In particular, cardiovascular diseases will experience a steep increase of 419%, diabetes-related ailments of 323%, Cancer of 275%, Mental Disorders of 241%.

Government and private investments in the area are bringing facilities and technologies to some of the highest standards in the world. However the human factor remains crucial with difficulties in building a high level medical community able to provide high standards of care.
Overall improvement is affecting the global numbers of patients sent abroad, with a decrease for those seeking diagnostics or low complexity care, which are increasingly being treated in local hospitals.
High complexity patients and diagnostics will still being sent abroad owing to lack of facilities or medical competence and this trend will most likely stay for more years.
So the challenge for international health care provider is to offerer high standard and high complexity treatments at a competitive price with qualified personnel and state-of-the-art research facilities.

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