Sunday, 23 April 2017

UAE: Dubai Aims To Attract 500,000 Medical Tourists By 2020.

"In April 2016, Dubai Health Authority announced the brand - Dubai Health Experience [DXH] - launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai," said Dr Layla Mohamed Al Marzouqi, Director - The Medical Tourism Council, Dubai Health Authority.

"Our goal is to bring 500,000 medical tourists to Dubai by 2020 and to make the city a leader in the region for medical tourism and on the list of the top 15 countries worldwide for medical tourism," she said.

In 2016, Dubai was ranked 16th according to the US-based Medical Tourism Association. A portal with an app for iPhone and Android has been launched to assist medical tourists.

"This is a comprehensive website. We were able to gather private, semi-private and government entities under the umbrella of DXH and DHA," she said. Dr Marzouqi said the website has information on 469 medical packages that the private sector offers. There are more than 340 specialists and consultants on this website offering 51 comprehensive medical treatment packages.

"This includes medical plus hotel or airline tickets for which we have partnered with Emirates airline. The website also has information about medical insurance. Dubai is very unique in offering this service, as well as offering medical tourist visas. There is another exclusive service, the Patient Protection Plan, with details on how to submit a complaint if anything goes wrong while receiving treatment."

According to Dr Marzouqi, DXH has received accolades over the past year winning the Innovation Award for Medical Tourism in Greece and the Medical Tourism Destination Award in Spain.

"Earlier, we were just attending exhibitions, but now we are doing road shows in target markets such as Nigeria and Ghana. We are planning to have more road shows in Africa and GCC countries. We want to make the journey easier for medical tourists by providing all the information that patients need," she said.

"Dubai offers niche services, for example, there is medical insurance around the world but not to the extent that we have here in Dubai. It is only Dh150, and if anything goes wrong or if any complication happens, the insurance will cover the travel, treatment and accommodation cost of the patient."

The Bill of Right of the patient is available on the website, which showcases what Dubai has to offer and the rights as a patient. Healthcare professionals in Dubai speak 110 languages. "We speak the language of the tourists. We are culture sensitive. Dubai is different; you will enjoy the experience, which will make you come back," she said.

Speaking about collaborating with international hospitals, Dr Marzouqi said: "We have a programme called the Visiting Doctor Programme where doctors visit public and private healthcare facilities in Dubai. This helps position Dubai on the global medical tourism map." Steps are being undertaken to improve services.

"Six to seven new hospitals are coming up in Dubai. The existing general hospitals have become specialised hospitals. Clinics are also upgrading to polyclinics, day care surgery is upgrading to hospitals and more sub-specialisation is happening. Good quality healthcare services bring in more medical tourists, which leads to more sub-specialisations and improved care," the doctor said.

Medical tourist visa is obtained through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). Patients have to apply through a healthcare facility. It is very easy to get a three-month visa that is renewable for another three months upon submission of the medical report.

"We have 45 hospitals chosen according to strict criteria and we promote Dubai as a medical tourist destination through them," Dr Marzouqi said. Elaborating on the partnership with Emirates, she said: "We partnered with them in road shows in Nigeria and Ghana. We've also signed an MoU with them to advertise Dubai as a medical tourism destination on flights across different platforms - video, radio and print."

Her final take, "Come to Dubai, we will take care of you."
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