The Growth of Dubai’s Healthcare Sector

By - World Healthcare Journal

The Growth of Dubai

The drive to establish advanced medical capabilities, coupled with modern infrastructure and facilities makes Dubai an attractive destination for private sector investment, says Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki, Director, Investment and Partnership Department, Dubai Health Authority.

Around 10-15 years ago Dubai had a growing health sector, but health services were largely provided by the public sector hospitals and clinics which accounted for most of inpatient and outpatient care.

Regulatory and health insurance systems and policies were not as well developed as they are today, and most of the health expenditure was government spending on healthcare and out of pocket spending.

The Private Sector healthcare providers in Dubai have contributed to developing a strong health ecosystem; they account for more than 79% of the utilisation for outpatient services, and more than 74% of inpatient services. This is in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Dubai’s health sector has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, with number of licensed health facilities growing to 3,100 by April 2018 from approximately 2,800 facilities in 2014 with an approximate year-over-year growth of four per cent. This increase includes private hospitals, specialised health centres, pharmacies, diagnostic centres and dental centres.

The growth is supported by a rise in population, rising utilisation of health services specifically in the private sector, the implementation of mandatory health insurance which has seen approximately 98% of Dubai’s resident population covered by health insurance (as of 3 September 2018), an increase in healthcare spending due to growing confidence in the health system and improved access to specialised health services in the Emirate of Dubai.

Increase in demand for quality health services due to Dubai’s rapid urban development, population growth and influx of medical tourists is one of biggest opportunities for private sector providers and investors in the health sector.

Many of world’s largest hospitals and specialised centres have invested in Dubai’s healthcare sector after realising the city’s unique investment climate, which provides a number of investment incentives.



Dubai’s Vision for its Health Economy

The drive to establish advanced medical capabilities, modern infrastructure and facilities in the city makes Dubai an attractive destination for private sector investment, which also supports Dubai’s ambition to grow in profile as the leading medical tourism destination in the Middle East.

In the short term, our aim is to develop and enhance services for chronic disease management, developing Centers of Excellence for Cardiology, Oncology, Diabetes and other specialties, to enhance and improve access to long term care, physical rehabilitation and home-based care, particularly to support the needs of the elderly and others with special needs in our Emirate, and to enhance and improve access to mental health services.

In the long term, we want to focus much more on population health management, value based care supported by better clinical outcomes and efficiency for the health system, improvements and adoption of genetic medicine, precision medicine, and beyond the pill initiatives.

We are very focused on supporting the emergence of urgent care clinics, ambulatory care, specialised centers for different diseases, the use of telehealth in primary care and remote patient monitoring.

We need to look at innovative models in primary care, such as walk in clinics for urgent care and ambulatory care centers, and we are seeing a lot of interest and new investment in these models. We also need to embrace and support the role of telehealth to enhance and integrate with primary care services, which will help curb overutilisation and support efficiency.



Understanding the Dubai Health System

Investors and private sector providers need to understand the dynamics of the Dubai Health System from the regulatory framework and licensing processes, the demographic profile and income segments, epidemiology and disease profiles, health investment needs and gaps to the reimbursement framework and insurance market which is unique and different from the health systems they are used to. The Dubai Health Investment Guide is an essential read for the potential investors and healthcare providers looking to enter Dubai as it provides more details on all of the above in a succinct and practical manner, and from this they can go deeper into evaluating where the opportunities are and what the returns from investment could be from becoming part of the Dubai healthcare market.


Working with International Health Systems and Partners

We believe that there are lessons to be learnt from successes and failures in health system transformation in countries in the East and West. No health system is perfect, and each health system has its unique strengths; there are elements that work really well and come together nicely, and there are other areas where the health system faces challenges. We can learn a lot from health systems that have ensured sustainable private sector investment in healthcare, and those that are implementing value-based healthcare models along with a transformation in the reimbursement of care through outcome-based and capitation-based models. Such systems help ensure improved quality and clinical outcomes, and help curtail and limit the growth in healthcare spending, this is a critical challenge as the population ages and there is a rise in the burden of poor health due to chronic diseases which continue to grow.

Clearly, there are lessons to be learned on developing infrastructure that is efficient and adaptable to future needs. There is a lot of innovation in healthcare as technology is changing and shaping how it is delivered to the patient.
Thus there are new models of patient-centric healthcare and value-based healthcare, where effective measures are taken to make appropriate health investments and develop services to achieve better clinical outcomes and efficiency of care, and avoid overutilisation of services which is inefficient and unsustainable, and puts pressure on the Government, businesses and the individual who has to pay for these services. There are great examples of integrated models of care, development of centres of excellence, and in using technologies to better monitor those with chronic conditions and provide remote patient management which will all be very useful for us to study as we develop our health system.

Other countries can also learn from Dubai where we are piloting many innovations and technologies through the Dubai Future Accelerator programme. We are open and welcoming to investors and providers from different parts of the world, as Dubai is ranked as one of leading destinations with an ease to set up and operate a business. We also have great diversity in the workplace, as we have people from all over the world that have made Dubai their home.



Looking to the Future

In Dubai ̧ there is a growing acceptance among healthcare regulators, investors and providers to look at models of care beyond curative services delivered in the hospital, focusing particularly on preventative care, disease management and extended care which includes home-based health services. While innovative and disruptive models need proactive investment facilitation support by regulators, it is imperative for us as regulators to review policies and legislations that could enable the licensing of these facilities and applications, and encourage their roll out and set up to improve access to patient services for the community. They should also be supported by health insurance coverage and inclusion in health insurers’ networks for facilities and applications providing these health services. Doing this would really support us in developing a sustainable health system and make Dubai a world-class destination for medical practice and treatments.


Dr. Ibtesam Al Bastaki, Director, Investments & PPP’s Dept. E:

Ahmed Faiyaz Sait, Advisor, Investments & PPP’s Dept. E:


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