UAE’s medical tourism industry on right track

While improving the overall infrastructure nationwide which is giving a boost to the healthcare sector, the UAE has been wooing more visitors, including medical tourists who visit the country to spend their holidays and receive medical treatment as well.
The UAE has turned into a hub for medical tourism and it has worked very hard to achieve this status. Both the public and private sectors have been rolling out plans to build more hospitals, train medical staff and recruit highly-qualified expatriate doctors and medical staff to deliver the quality services. The healthcare infrastructure in the UAE has grown and stretched in a manner that could be compared with those of advanced countries. Revenues from the UAE medical tourism sector are expected to cross AED2.6 billion by 2020 amid increasing number of tourists.
The UAE, which is diversifying its economy away from oil, has devised grand plans to ensure the medical tourism industry contributes to the economic
footprint and is in line with the UAE Vision 2021.
Abu Dhabi medical tourism has surged significantly in recent years. The UAE capital plans to reverse the phenomenon of Emiratis going abroad to seek medical treatment abroad. The opening of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in Al Maryah Island is not only a blessing but a game changer. Emirati patients who used to travel to the US to get the medical treatment from Cleveland Clinic, a world renowned brand in healthcare, are now receiving it here locally. It saves time and money, with delivery of high quality medical services that attract medical tourists.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) also plans to build 22 private hospitals in the next few years, with the number of private-sector healthcare staff
expected to increase by more than 3,800.
Apart from revamping the healthcare infrastructure, the UAE also focusses on quality and adopting international standards such as JCI accreditation. Being aware of regional and international competition in the medical tourism, the UAE is developing an improved regulatory framework where pan-UAE healthcare companies will only need to adhere to one set of standards, instead of following specific guidelines imposed by each emirate.
The National Health Council — established in 2008 to coordinate between public bodies and the private sector — can play a stronger role in harmonising licensing and unifying standards.
Another important element to expand medical services is the development of healthcare free-zones, which has significantly improved the private sector participation in the country. The benefits for the medical firms are lucrative. Free zones permit 100 percent foreign ownership, zero taxes and full repatriation of profits, but also demand a high standard service from companies located there.
Focussing on high-end services, a standard ranking system, slated for rollout in 2016, is also being developed by the DHA to rate hospitals in the emirate based on their overall performance and hospitality.
It is evident that the plastic surgery has been driving force attracting many medical tourists to visit the Emirate of Dubai. This has spurred surge in plastic surgeons in Dubai. Patients seek cosmetic procedures in the areas of nose reshaping, body contouring, facial rejuvenation, tummy tuck, male chest reduction, among others.
With many people haunted by lifestyle changes and others seeking good corporate look, demand for plastic surgery among the medical tourists in Dubai is growing rapidly, making it a flourishing hub.
As the healthcare and wellness industry grows in the UAE, we will see more players entering the race. But it is imperative that the sector is not driven by business alone and puts care at the core of all its policies.

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