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Dubai Health Authority announces strategy for medical tourism in the emirate

His Excellency Engineer Essa Al Maidoor, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority has announced the medical tourism strategy for the emirate of Dubai. Al Maidoor said: "In line with the vision, leadership and encouragement from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and as per the goals of the Dubai Health Sector Strategy 2013-2025, we are focussing on developing Dubai’s medical tourism initiatives and relying on Dubai’s strengths by building a health system that supports excellence in health care with a focus on healthcare professionals, health investment and excellence in services across a diversified range of medical specialties.

"The medical tourism strategy has been designed over two phases, the first one has been chalked out until 2016 and the second until 2020. The aim of the strategy is to ensure Dubai features among the top medical tourism destinations around the world. We have carefully selected health services to be promoted taking quality and prices into consideration to attract tourists to the emirate. Dubai already has several elements that make it a favourable destination for medical tourism and developing a strategy helps ensure the complete process from the time a patient visits Dubai for medical tourism right through the discharge and follow-up stage is smooth. There are various stakeholders involved and this strategy will help provide a comprehensive road-map for the process."

Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, director of the health regulation department and director of the medical tourism project said: "Dubai as a destination itself is unique and is unlike any other place in the world, in the manner in which it blends the East and the West, and the various leisure and entertainment options in the Emirate. Dubai has visitors from across the globe coming here for business, exhibitions and conferences, shopping and entertainment or on their annual family holiday and has amongst the best tourism infrastructure in the world. More importantly, we already have a medical sector that is well regulated through the health regulation department of the DHA. In terms of the health sector, the number of health facilities in Dubai is around 2,518 and more than 70% of our hospitals are internationally accredited, the emirate has more than 25, 846 health professionals in the private sector, who speak more than 40 languages. All these factors will help drive the medical tourism initiative."

In terms of the strategy he said that it will be implemented in phases. " We began the ground work for the medical tourism initiative around the last quarter of 2012. In 2013, we completed a thorough analysis of the competitiveness and prioritization of services, this included analysis of the current situation and existing gaps, medical specialties which can be highlighted, target market identification and prices benchmarking. In 2014 we will build on this knowledge and promote Dubai’s strengths in terms of medical tourism, we will launch a dedicated portal for medical tourism as well as brand the medical tourism initiative for Dubai and launch medical tourism packages to be promoted in target markets. Moving further in 2015 we will build on the brand and our facilities to grow the initiative and in 2016 we will focus on sustaining the strategy as well as evaluating and monitoring it so that we can decide the further course of action. All through, the key element will continue to be a well-regulated health sector with due regulations in place as quality of services is an essential component that leads to the organic growth of medical tourism."

Speaking about the potential of the sector, he said: "In 2012, the number of medical tourists that visited Dubai were 107,000 and the revenues generated were AED 652,700,000. By 2016 we expect a 15 per cent jump bringing the total number of tourists to 170,000 and the revenues to AED 1,184,882,113 and by 2020 if we consider a 20 per cent jump, it brings the number to 500,000 tourists and revenues to AED 2,619,673,731."

He added that the initiative is a multi-stakeholder initiative and that the private health sector as well as various government entities such as the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Department of Economic Development, Dubai Healthcare City Authority and General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs - Dubai are working in tandem with the DHA to bring in health investments for identified priorities and to support the development of health infrastructure, including health information networks, health policies and research, and that would enable a stronger and more sustainable health system.

In terms of services, Ibrahim highlighted that the authority will focus on orthopaedic and sports medicine, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, dental procedures, dermatology, preventive health check-ups and wellness and skin care services.

He added that the target markets for this initiative will be, Russia, CIS countries and South Asia as well as neighbouring GCC countries. " We have studied these markets and a majority of the medical tourists presently visit Dubai from these countries for various medical treatments."

He added that once implementation begins, the initiative will provide a further boost to Dubai’s growing health sector.

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