Health & Education

Medical Tourism

Making the Emirate a key location for medical tourism is one of the objectives of Vision 2030, a goal that with talent, technology, and state-of-the-art medical infrastructure Abu Dhabi is well on its way to achieving.

Abu Dhabi has become one of the world’s leading medical tourism destinations, thanks to its state-of-the-art infrastructure and world-class medical facilities. Patients from all over the world flock to the Emirate for advanced medical treatments and procedures. Abu Dhabi is the ninth best destination in the world for medical tourism, according to a 2021 report by the Medical Tourism Association (MTA). This position places Abu Dhabi as the top medical tourism destination in the GCC.

Realizing its potential, Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 highlights tourism and healthcare as key sectors for economic diversification. The roadmap places particular emphasis on healthcare tourism, a growing trend in which wealthy individuals travel abroad for medical treatment. In an effort to increase the influx of more foreigners seeking healthcare services, the Emirate signed a 10-year partnership with the nonprofit MTA to try to promote Abu Dhabi as a destination in other GCC countries, Russia, and China. Cardiology, oncology, and executive medical checkups are some of the key areas in which the Emirate has specialized.

Abu Dhabi aims to excel in this sector by establishing world-class healthcare centers and competing successfully in the global health tourism sector. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an example of this specialization, as it uses technology that is rare in the region that incorporates the use of AI to achieve the best treatment. “The Fatima bint Mubarak Center has state-of-the-art equipment and developments that are unique to the region. We have a linear accelerator that delivers radiation therapy, one of a few in the region,” said Jorge Guzman, CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. This device for oncology treatments also utilizes innovative radiation intelligence to detect tissue movement or quasi dynamic bases and shrink the tumor with a beam of radiation, explains Guzman.

The number of hospitals in the Emirate has grown considerably in recent years, and the Department of Health offers some 40 healthcare centers in its medical tourism network. These centers, available on the department’s website, offer more than 287 medical treatment packages from more than 173 doctors across the emirate, including medical tourism insurance, the first of its kind in the region, as well as tourism services such as visas, hotels, and transportation services.

“The UAE in general, and Abu Dhabi specifically, have invested heavily in new technologies and innovation. It has the best communication, expertise, capacity, and skills, as well as connectivity to different parts of the world. That is the reason why it is becoming the hub for medical tourism from all parts of the world,” said Dr. Sadoon Sami Sadoon, group chief of Women’s Health Services at NMC Healthcare. Technology plays a vital role at the center, with investments in telemedicine, robotics, and AI. For example, AI helps to improve the diagnostic accuracy of fetal well-being in utero, Sadoon said.

The global medical tourism market was worth an estimated USD82 billion in 2021, a figure that is expected to grow by 121% to USD182 billion by 2025, according to a study by Glasgow Research & Consulting. Abu Dhabi wants to take a bite of that pie, and according to the most recent figures from the Dubai Health Authority, Dubai collected 674,000 medical tourists spending the equivalent of USD270 million in 2022. That’s an average spend of about USD430 per patient.

Other important points are Abu Dhabi’s spectacular hotel offerings, which, coupled with a warm climate, make many of the emirate’s medical facilities an ideal place to recover from treatment. “Previously, it was the norm for people from the MENA region to travel to Europe or the US for more complex healthcare needs, but this is no longer the case,” said Dr. Laila AbdelWareth, acting executive director of the National Reference Laboratory, a Mubadala Health partner.

“The UAE is uniquely positioned to meet the demands of the medical tourism industry. We have an excellent healthcare ecosystem and are well-situated to deliver such services because of the combination of access and innovation. In addition, we have a welcoming and safe environment in what I see as a pleasant hybrid of East and West, where everybody finds something they can relate to and feel at home,” she said during an interview with TBY. However, it is worth noting that technology and the recruitment of top talent are undoubtedly a highly differentiating factor in Abu Dhabi’s medical offerings. “Healthpoint delivers quality and accessible care, grounded in the latest internationally recognized medical approaches, to achieve the best possible results for all our patients,” said

Omar Al Naqbi, executive director of Healthpoint, a multi-specialty hospital. “We also attract renowned talent from around the world to make use of leading-edge technology such as robotic surgery. For example, we recruited Dr. Jon Conroy, a well-known surgeon from the UK, whose patients have followed him to the UAE to continue medical treatment”, Al Naqbi added.

Talent, technology, location and excellent facilities. And a good climate for recovery. With this recipe, Abu Dhabi is on its way to becoming a regional powerhouse in medical tourism.