Health & Education

Healthy and Happy


With one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the region and a commitment to world-class care, Dubai is setting new standards for health and wellness.

Healthcare and healthy living are key components of Dubai’s economy and identity. Stakeholders across the country recognize the importance of health and wellness in ensuring the Emirate’s continued prosperity, and large-scale efforts have been made to ensure Dubai is on the cutting edge of global health.

Relying on their long history of fostering partnerships between the government and private industry, officials in Dubai have developed a number of initiatives aimed at generating new generations of healthcare and health-oriented firms. Thanks to the resulting influx of investment, outpatient services have grown substantially in recent years, and outpatient visits have grown more than 10% a year since 2014. Additionally, the private sector captured the majority of these visits, accounting for just under 75%, while the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) accounted for 22%, bringing the Emirate closer to achieving its goal of a 70-30 split between private and public sector care. In terms of inpatient services, the Emirate is even closer to achieving its ideal split, with 68.6% of services being provided by private operators and 29.2% by the DHA. Additionally, the bed occupancy rate (BOR) in the Emirate was 50%, with private hospitals averaging 76.7% and DHA hospitals averaging 44.6%.

Healthcare services have traditionally been rather fragmented in Dubai, but consolidation is beginning to take hold, restructuring the industry in key ways. While there are currently almost 2,000 operational clinics in the Emirate, new requirements in the insurance industry and the industry’s regulatory body have catalyzed consolidation. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Amitava Ghosal, CEO & Board Member at Avivo Group, explained the impact new regulations have had on the sector, noting that they “have made it more difficult for the smaller players and the non-strategic investors to operate with the same kind of feasibility that they had anticipated.” According to Ghosal, this is likely to correct the sector’s large-scale fragmentation, leading to a more regional health service.

According to the most recently available statistics from the DHA, the leading causes of death in the Emirate were cardiovascular and circulatory system disease (31.9%), cancer (18.2%), and respiratory disease (12.6%). A persistent health challenge has been the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, the high rates of which can be traced back to the sedentary lifestyles and high-calorie diets of many Emiratis. These conditions now affect nearly one in four Emiratis, and government officials have been working hard to develop plans tailored specifically to curb these diseases. The number of physicians and healthcare providers has grown quite significantly, with nearly 7,800 physicians working Dubai in 2015, representing growth of more than 66% since 2009. Dubai also has 3.3 physicians for every 1,000 people, the majority of which worked in the private sector. Additionally, there were nearly 8.9 nurses and 0.9 dentists per 1,000 people.

Part of the move toward improved service and quality care has been the development of the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). The city is a free zone dedicated to bringing the best medical practices and facilities to Dubai. Founded in 2002 by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the free zone occupies more than 26 million sqft and has more than 160 clinical partners. The DHCC is overseen by the Dubai Healthcare City Authority and regulated by international standards. The zone is designed to be a hub for medical development, and officials and industry observers are impressed with the high standards and success rate the city has had.
Dubai is trying to leverage its medical expertise and infrastructure to establish itself as a regional medical tourism hub. The DHA has enacted a number of initiatives aimed at stimulating this type of growth, and private firms and providers have invested heavily in medical tourism. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Dr. Mohaymen M. Abdelghany, CEO of Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, explained the vision and strides his hospital and the broader sector have made in this area. “As a hospital, we worked closely with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on the medical tourism initiative. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid’s vision is to have 500,000 medical tourists by 2020. This is going to be exceeded with current rates of growth, considering that in 2015 we had 300,000 medical tourists.” By providing world-class medical care, medical facilities in Dubai hope to attract patients from all across the world. “With the Dubai Tourism Department’s continued support, I think we can get much larger exposure,” said Abdelghany.

Additionally, hospitals are designing packages that combine a wide range of medical services with services traditionally provided by the travel industry. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Dr. Yashar Ali Abdulkader, acting CEO & CMO of Canadian Specialist Hospital, explained his hospital’s services. “When a tourism patient comes to see us we take care of them from the moment they land until departure. We make arrangements for their hotel, transport, and city tours.” To differentiate themselves from the growing competition, hospitals have needed to diversify their service offerings in interesting ways.

According to Alpen Capital, the GCC’s healthcare market is expected to enjoy an impressive, 12.1% CAGR between 2015-2020, reaching a total value of roughly USD71 billion by 2020. With ambitious and far-reaching strategies in place, Dubai and the UAE are expected to garner a significant portion of this growth, further developing their domestic medical infrastructure. According to the Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021, the Emirate has 15 strategic programs designed to improve different aspects of the health system in the next five years. These programs range from topics as diverse as prevention and healthy lifestyle, mental health, oral and dental care, and medical informatics and technology. Additionally, each strategic program has multiple strategic initiatives designed to transform health in Dubai in clear, easily measured ways.

Dubai’s new mandatory health insurance plan has also met with such success that the program is being extended to Sharjah and the Northern Emirates. Government officials hope that the plan will extend coverage to a much greater portion of the population, and basic coverage packages range from AED550 to AED700.
With such impressive gains made thus far, Dubai is on its way to solidifying its status as a world-renowned medical and heath center. As the GCC and MENA continue to expand, Dubai’s health sector well positioned to continue enjoying sizable growth.