With Dubai’s phenomenal growth coupled with excellence in innovation, medical tourism is gaining ground and making an impact. HEALTH meets with Dr. Benazir Ameer Ali, Director of Thumbay Medical Tourism to learn more.
Q. Essentially what is medical tourism and how strong is this in UAE?
Dr. Benazir: Medical Tourism refers to people travelling from one country to another for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment.
Q. Does UAE have an edge over other countries in the region when it comes to medical tourism?
Dr. Benazir: UAE has portrayed itself as a major tourist attraction and is one of the world’s fastest growing destinations for leisure. UAE is located in a unique strategic position between the East and West which makes it easily accessible to millions of medical tourists. UAE boasts major JCI accredited hospitals, state-of-the-art facilities and Western qualified doctors along with high quality of life and security to make it a great prospect for medical travellers as compared to the rest of the countries in the region.
Q. Which countries are the majority of patients coming from for treatment here?
Dr. Benazir: The majority of Africans have been seen flocking into UAE for medical treatment. Nationals from Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, and
Chad have been the major medical tourists in UAE. Along with leisure travel, many tourists from Russia and the CIS countries have been seeking medical treatment in UAE.
Q. What is the process for a person who is ill and wants to obtain top notch medical care here? What do they need to do?
Dr. Benazir: They will have to source the hospital according to the specialty of treatment they wish to come for. Once the hospital or choice of
hospitals are shortlisted, they can then contact the hospital and send the required medical reports after which the hospital can send them a
treatment plan and a cost estimate. Once the patient is happy with the plan of treatment, cost, and the hospital’s capability to handle such cases, they can then make arrangements to visit UAE.
Q. Where do you foresee the UAE heading in the future with regards to medical tourism?
Dr. Benazir: The UAE has a major plan laid down for medical tourism. Especially Dubai being a major tourist attraction, they can use this opportunity to attract medical tourists as well. With high quality treatment options and well established rehabilitation centers, the UAE sets itself to become a medical tourism hub. Every year, there has been an increase in the number of tourists and medical tourists arriving in UAE. Thus, Dubai has revealed a master plan which includes a medical tourism club for hospitals and a one- stop shop E-portal which would be
helpful for medical treatment seeking patients.
Q. What are the key advantages for a nonresident and a citizen in obtaining healthcare in UAE as opposed to their home country?
Dr. Benazir: Since the UAE wants to become a medical tourism hub, it has highly invested in infrastructure, and gathering well trained Western doctors, as well as building wellness and health spas for patients to rehabilitate. UAE has been able to attract millions of medical tourists who get value for money in terms of healthcare services offered by many JCI accredited hospitals in the region.
Q. What can a medical tourist arriving in UAE expect?
Dr. Benazir: He/she can expect the following: economical cost of treatment, high quality treatment, all specialties in a smaller geographical area, well-established rehabilitation centers, and high security and standard of living.
Q. What are the most popular procedures/ treatments at the moment sought by medical tourists?
Dr. Benazir: The UAE offers specialized treatments in many specialties. Currently, orthopedic surgeries such as spine surgery and total knee replacement, cosmetic and plastic surgeries such as abdominoplasty, rhinoplasty, and face lifts are very popular in the country.
Q. How competitive is UAE in terms of providing medical healthcare to nonresidents? Are prices competitive in terms of healthcare?
Dr. Benazir: The UAE is emerging as a medical tourism hub and thus all efforts are taken to provide quality healthcare at affordable and economical prices to medical tourists. The UAE has many major specialties to offer to medical tourists. The UAE is competing with already established medical tourism countries in the region, thus the prices are set at an economical range which is affordable by medical tourists.