Dubai’s 2015 healthcare strategy remains focused on prevention, access, and quality as the medical tourism industry grows.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) released its 2015 roadmap recently, and all signs point to the continued development of the Emirate as a major global medical hub.
“The rapid development witnessed by the health sector in the Emirate of Dubai,” according to Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “is not in isolation from the overall development of the Emirate, which has been achieved through strategic planning.”
The 2015 roadmap is multidisciplinary, and keeps customer care at the epicenter of rapid expansion and innovation. The strategy maintains focus on four pillars (i.e., prevention, access, quality, and efficiency in healthcare services for nationals and residents) while building on a thriving medical tourism industry.
In 2014, visits to Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) were up 20% to 1.2 million from 1 million in 2013. Medical tourists account for 15% of all visits to DHCC.
The most popular procedures sought by medical tourists to DHCC include infertility, cosmetic, and dental treatments. Almost half of medical tourists come from within the GCC, with the global breakdown as follows:
Source: Dubai Healthcare City and nuviun
Commenting on the success of DHCC, Her Excellency Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg, Vice-Chairperson of Dubai Healthcare City Authority, said:
“Healthcare in the region is pegged to witness exponential growth in the coming years fueled by population growth, a rise in chronic diseases, high disposable income, sophisticated spending patterns, and political stability. We are confident that DHCC is well positioned to lead sector growth in tandem with the anticipated demand.”
Of the strategic pillars, prevention and awareness pose the biggest challenge, according to His Excellency Engineer Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor, Director-General of the DHA. In an effort to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in Dubai, the DHA will continue to expand health education and behavior change programs. Infectious disease screening, early detection and reporting of communicable diseases, immunizations, and workplace safety will also take precedence.
When it comes to access to care, the DHA believes Dubai nationals should be able to find the healthcare services they need at prices they can afford. The Authority continues to roll out its mandatory health insurance coverage plan, and has identified geographic gaps in healthcare services. Capacity planning with the Emirate integrates evidence-based supply and demand projections.
New projects are underway to build new healthcare facilities, with many scheduled to open in 2015. Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital is expected to open in the first half of the year with 200 pediatric beds. Rashid Hospitals Trauma and Emergency Center will add 160 beds. The neonatal intensive care unit at Latifa Hospital will be expanded to meet expected capacity. Additionally, 4 primary health centers should open in 2015. This will bring the number of primary health centers in Dubai to 20, which is half of its 2025 goal of 40.
The DHA also recognizes that access to care is not just about proximity and affordability.
“Making information accessible at one’s fingertips is important to help enhance patient convenience,” said Al Maidoor.
Hence, newer health technologies, such as telehealth, mHealth, and smart devices are being integrated into care models to facilitate access. Dubai hospitals are beginning to offer bedside physiotherapy and edutainment programs through smart screens, as well as mobile apps that allow patients to schedule appointments and view test results.
The Dubai Health Strategy 2013-2025 laid out a plan to promote the adoption of clinical best practices and standardized guidelines that ensure quality, promote international accreditation, and build-out training facilities for healthcare professionals.
One notable development on the education front is the recent opening of Harvard Medical Center for Global Health Delivery. Funded by the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research, the Center will conduct multidisciplinary research on improving outcomes. As the first school of its kind, it should keep Dubai at the forefront of scientific and policy discussions about healthcare delivery.
Although a focus on prevention, access, and quality should create efficiencies in care, the DHA will continue to improve efficiency in 2015 by promoting communication among providers and patients. Efforts include further adoption of electronic medical records, and the increased use of mobile technologies to facilitate communication, and reduce medical errors and duplications.
“2015 is the year for results,” said HE Al Maidoor. “Our aim this year should be to work together as one team and move ahead quickly in line with the Dubai Health Strategy 2013-2025. We need to further enhance communication between all sectors of the DHA, work closely together to achieve our goals.”