As easily as ordering groceries, people around the world can now log on to shop around for cosmetic and medical treatments.
Healthcare has become big business globally as more people seek out sunshine destinations to merge the best in treatments and facilities with a relaxing holiday. How far the market stretches is hard to predict due to a current lack of unified data collection, but Patients Beyond Borders estimates that around 12 million medical tourists seek treatment every year, spending roughly $4,000 to $6,000 dollars per visit.
Dubai is already attracting a sizable piece of the pie, and has put plans in place to encourage more medical tourists over the next four years to make it one of the premium destinations worldwide. With a target of half a million international patients by 2020, predication’s from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) estimate that the emirate will comfortably exceed its target. Dr. Layla Mohamed Al Marzouqi, Director of the Health Regulations Department in Dubai and Head of Clinical Governance at DHA, believes that half a million is a “very humble number”. Projections suggest that numbers will increase around 13% per year and that by 2021 over 1.3 million medical tourists will hit Dubai, with over 620,000 of these coming from international shores.
To entice patients our way, Al Marzouqi has overseen the launch of the Dubai Health Experience (DXH) brand, offering people a one-stop online shop where customers can choose what treatment they want, which hospital they would like to visit and which doctor to see, along with the chance to browse Emirates flights, hotels, specialist insurance, travel agencies and tourist attractions. The site attracted over 24,000 page views in just a month after it launched from visitors in the U.A.E., the U.K., Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.S., Turkey, Germany, Iran, Switzerland and Spain.
With 25 hospitals currently available on the portal, the DXH Group offers above and beyond services, such as translators, interactive websites, comfortable facilities and special food menus, as well as the level of luxury that you would expect from a stay in Dubai. “Dubai is itself a unique brand” Al Marzouqi explains. “We care about the ambience.” Strict criteria include an assessment of any malpractice and violations against the facility in the last year, as well as international accreditation.
Work is underway to collect comprehensive data from nearly 3,000 hospitals and clinics to understand the true scope of medical tourism in Dubai. Figures collected last year from just 26 hospitals indicate that the industry was worth around AED1.5 billion. Of 630,833 medical tourists, 47% were international, and of these 43% came from Asian countries, 15% from Europe, 7% Africa and 5% America. So far Q1 2016 data reveals that there were 140,739 international tourists out of a total of 262,171—indicating an increase to 54%.
With top-quality care being offered by stunning destinations such as Malaysia, Turkey and Thailand, what is Dubai’s USP? “We’ve built our medical tourism on trust, transparency and talent” says Al Marzouqi. “We’ve got 110 nationalities among our healthcare professionals, so we say we speak your language, we’re culturally sensitive. We have translators, special food menus—we accommodate their needs. Then we have the luxurious facilities and the quality of the packages that we’ve launched already.” These packages so far specialize in areas such as cosmetic and aesthetic plastic surgery, thermology, dermatology, dental, fertility, orthopaedic and wellness and checkups.
Overwhelmingly it appears that orthopaedic treatment is what patients most demand, with 42% of them seeking it out last year.
Demand is being met by Dubai’s 33,000 medical healthcare professionals. And with the health and education sector reportedly set to expand by 10 to 12% in 2016, the number of top staff being drafted in is also expected to soar. “We’re receiving 150 to 200 job applications from healthcare professionals every day” Al Marzouqi says. “So demand is there and people are coming and they love Dubai.”
With plans underway to push its latest digital platform to a global audience through social media and direct marketing, Dubai is on track to become the latest international hub for healthcare, with a modern and innovative approach to showcase it.