UAE's healthcare industry has witnessed significant achievements over the past few years, thanks to the support of effective government-led initiatives and thriving private sector. The country is consolidating these efforts to enhance its reputation as a high-quality healthcare provider worldwide.
UAE's federal budget for 2022-2026, which is considered to be the largest in the country's history with a total expenditure of $78.95 billion (AED 290 billion), has undertaken health among its key priorities. Significantly, 8.09 percent of the total budget $1.29 billion (AED 4.76 billion) has been allocated to healthcare and community protection.
The ongoing healthcare excellence has positioned the UAE as a global destination for medical tourism, especially in Dubai.
In 2014, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, approved the Dubai Health Tourism Strategy. Since its launch, the country's world-class healthcare has been climbing up the ladder in an unrelenting manner.
Thanks to the continuous efforts, Dubai ranked in the top ten of the Medical Tourism Index in 2021 with the support of the well-established travel and tourism ecosystem.
According to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the emirate welcomed more than 350,118 health tourists in 2019, generating over AED726m in total healthcare revenue.
What is the next stage?
Moving ahead, the Emirate is working on maintaining the position and safeguarding the quality and reputation of the healthcare ecosystem.
As part of these efforts, Dubai is nurturing a business-friendly environment with adaptive policies, state-of-the-art infrastructure and sector-focused business districts to make the emirate an attractive destination for leading healthcare providers.
The government has been liberalising various policies to attract foreign investments and promote private spending with greater adoption of public-private partnership (PPP) models.
These efforts will have multifaceted impact, including increase in the competitiveness of the regional healthcare sector. Furthermore, players are encouraged to continuously improve treatments, solutions and patient-focused services. It further help in gaining access to a wider range of technologies and insights.
For instance, Neuro Spinal Hospital was recently inaugurated at Dubai Science Park. The hospital introduced the first robotic CyberKnife, radiosurgery centre and brain surgical suite in the UAE.
The CyberKnife is a technological marvel, being a non-invasive treatment for cancerous and non-cancerous tumours throughout the body.
In addition, the American Hospital Dubai launched the region’s first AI-led research lab where researchers are working to develop scientifically proven operations and solutions to enhance the treatment of patients.
Such initiatives are helping the country in boosting healthcare of individual patients along with improving the country’s quality and quantity of medical solutions.
A growing and innovation-driven landscape is also helping in enriching opportunities for skilled talent, which is undeniably critical to healthcare excellence. Talent has also been one of main challenges for the healthcare sector, particularly when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled medical staff.
Even in this regard, the UAE is making considerable leaps, boosted by the advanced infrastructure, global standing and investment.
UAE boasts of several exceptional medical universities which attracts a cohort of medical students. The number of private hospitals continue to rise as they provide valuable incentives to relocate established doctors and specialists.
The UAE continue to give talent a major push with the expansion of 10-year Golden Visas and 5-year Green Residence visas to qualified professionals in medicine, sciences and other specialised fields. The initiative has been extended to the family members of the healthcare professionals.
With the provision of long-term security, experts are sure that Dubai will become the permanent home for many world-class medical minds. It will further help in securing the country's knowledge pool and standard for treatments. It will also contribute to the growth in the number of surgeons, paediatricians, nurses and dentists, along with scientists and researchers.
The UAE healthcare sector is working on expanding localised manufacturing of medicines to provide quicker and direct access to life-saving drugs to hospitals, clinics and patients. It will foster collaborations and investments from global pharma players and development of solutions that can effectively fulfill the needs of the region.
For example, Swiss pharma company Acino worked with UAE-based Pharmax to launch the first locally manufactured anti-cholesterol drug with the aim of preventing and treating cardiovascular disease.
Such solid foundations and advancements in the healthcare sector now required the government to enhance focus on upskilling talent and innovation.
Noting that the industry is changing rapidly, it is important for relevant stakeholders to enhance efforts to make Dubai a world-leader for healthcare and advancements.