Dubai prepares for the return of the health tourist

Mohamed Al Mheiri

The government’s key steps and actions in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in the UAE being declared as one of the safest destinations in the world. The UAE has ranked first in the Arab world and among the top ten countries in the world in terms of success in dealing with the pandemic. Given its ease of access from neighbouring countries, with the reopening of airports and visas for many nationalities, Dubai is back on the tourism map.

Although the current situation has resulted in a slowdown in visits to local clinics, feedback from health tourism partners show that there are patients that have started to contact again, it emerges in an interview with Mohamed Al Mheiri, Director, Health Tourism Department, Dubai Health Authority.

"Dubai has now started to prepare for the return of the health and medical tourism sector. The emirate is steadfast in its efforts to implement the best practices that guarantee public security and safety in preparation for receiving tourists from different parts of the world to Dubai for treatment and hospitalisation purposes, in conjunction with lifting restrictions that were imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19."

Dubai has the key advantage of being close to most of its source markets. "This is one of the many advantages for the health tourist, the other reason for the health tourist to choose Dubai is the quality of healthcare provision, the welcoming environment and the ecosystem that provides great patient experience. We are geared towards sending out the message that Dubai is open to receiving tourists, especially health tourists, for a wide spectrum of medical and wellness treatments across all its public and private hospitals with the highest compliance to Covid-19 protocols right from the airports and immigration to the hospitals and wellness centres in the emirate."

Many healthcare facilities are providing telehealth and second medical opinion to restart the health journeys and provide end to end assistance to the patient and its families.

At the same time the Dubai Health Authority is continuously working to enhance the preventive and alternative health practices in Dubai in the post-Covid-19 era - considering its importance as one of the effective health measures in improving immunity and creating a healthy lifestyle.

"We are currently working on reinforcing the emirate’s leadership in the field of healthcare based on an ambitious vision that aims to provide a fast and comfortable hospitalsation experience for patients and provide health care services that keep pace with the latest technological innovations.

"To date, key investments have already been earmarked for the construction of modern hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities in Dubai and attract international doctors across various disciplines. During the first half of 2020, DHA issued 3,397 licenses to health facilities in Dubai, while 45 new health facilities, a hospital and 10 general and specialised medical clinics were inaugurated during the period.

"Technology has made its way into medical tourism to provide the best of facilities for medical patients across the world.

"Recently, we launched the ‘Second Medical Opinion’ programme, which provides international patients with another solution or consultation based on their condition, accompanied by competitive offerings and pricing—all under the supervision of the elite of medical professionals."

"We are now focused on making sure that we provide reassurance on the safety of the medical tourist and the provision of high-quality care. The services that we offer are key to restarting the health tourism journey that was temporarily stalled by the pandemic.

"Rest assured that we will continue to collaborate and communicate with all relevant stakeholders to discuss tourism opportunities and new trends such as telemedicine to tide over the effects of Covid-19."

Last year was an excellent year for Dubai as it witnessed a four per cent growth in health tourist arrivals or the equivalent of 350,118 visitors. In terms of nationality, Asians lead the number of visitors at 34 per cent, followed by Arab and Gulf Nationals (28 per cent), European (17 per cent), African (10 per cent) and the Americas and others (10 per cent).

Tourists from around the world can come and avail of the unique Dubai Health Experience (DXH), especially health-care tourists who might be coming to the emirate seeking treatment. The emirate is backed by state-of-the-art healthcvare infrastructure; the latest technologies in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI)-supported treatment, 3-D printing, cosmetic surgeries, and several other sub-specialties.

Dubai is fast gaining a reputation as a widely preferred destination of choice for medical tourism purposes, which is attributed to the world class patient care it administers combined with the state-of-the-art treatments, healthcare diagnostics, medical infrastructure and technology used. The growing preference for Dubai as a medical tourism destination can be seen in the large number of tourists that visit the Emirate visiting to so that they can seek consultations and treatments in dermatology, dental and orthopaedics--three of the most sought-after specialties of 2019.

"Dubai also saw visitors from Asian, Arab, GCC and European regions for various health and wellness treatments Fertility and ophthalmology are some of the other niche specialties that attracts medical tourists to the emirate."