Dubai's ongoing health tourism strategy is taking off
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is continuing its work to drive up health tourism figures in order to further cement its presence as a leader within the industry. From implementing smart medical records, to upskilling medical professionals in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), it aims to be a leader across the entire healthcare industry.
Over 326,000 health tourists visited the country in 2016, a figure which is set to rise. Accumulating over AED1 billion, the country is placing significant investment in new healthcare facilities, technology and medical training in order to provide world-class patient care.
Attracting skilled medical professionals worldwide, the country is set to hold the first Dubai International Medical Tourism forum next month, which will entail how the country is set to further transform its services to further drive positive patient experiences, increase safety and guarantee exceptional patient care.
Set to attract over 30 local and international hospitals, the Forum will further highlight how the health insurance sector will play a key part in supporting the country’s operations both nationally and internationally, in addition to how new digital tools will enable the ongoing growth of its consumer-healthcare model.
Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, Director of Medical Tourism at the DHA, said, “The aim of the event is to review our achievements and to discuss and collect recommendations on our Strategy for Health tourism 2017 – 2021 in order to create the synergy between both the private and government sectors.
“Dubai is a leading health tourism destination. DHA recently announced a growth of 9.5% over 2015 on the number of international medical tourists who availed health services in Dubai.”
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At present, Dubai has up to 3,000 private hospitals, a number which is expected to rise significantly, along with public hospitals.
However, historically it has been a complex process for tourists to obtain a visa into Dubai. The Health Tourism Council has therefore worked to streamline this process to enable tourists to obtain a health visa within 48 hours, which can be renewed through presenting a medical report.
Putting the control back into a patient’s hand has been key to Dubai’s healthcare strategy, Dubai Health Experience. The development of its health tourism portal DXH.ae, provides a charter of a patient’s rights and responsibilities, and sees up to 10,000 monthly visits by users looking for information surrounding various medical treatments. The launch of the DXH mobile app also enables patients to look up information surrounding healthcare packages, anytime, anywhere.
"We are broadening the health tourism’s portfolio to position Dubai as a holistic wellness provider. For instance, the emergence of projects like The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel, the first holistic wellbeing resort in the Middle East, is adding another edge to Dubai’s offerings in the health tourism sector,” added Al Marzouqi.
Linda Abdullah, consultant, the Health Tourism Council at DHA, also stated: We have recently broadened our portfolio to include health and wellness, in order to attract the tourists seeking a holistic wellness experience.
"We want health tourists to embrace their wellness journey in the city of Dubai, via our wellness offerings that include preventive health screenings, DNA tests, detox and weight loss programmes, anti-aging treatments, diabetes management and alternative medicines to name few."
Advances in health "must ensure self-sovereign identity"
The UK government has announced that from September onwards COVID-19 vaccine passports will be necessary to gain entry into places with large crowds, such as nightclubs.
This has reignited the debate between those who believe having proof of vaccinations will enable people to gather in public places and travel safely, and those who view the digital certificates as an attack on personal freedom.
The arguments have increased in intensity since the recent announcement to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England, in a move to reopen the economy that has attracted fierce criticism both domestically and overseas.
Cross-party ministers are set to defy the government’s latest plans to introduce vaccine passports over civil liberties concerns. A number of MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.
However Mark Shaw, CEO of Tento Applied Sciences, says the Big Brother Watch campaign is based on false assumptions. “Big Brother Watch puts forward a compelling argument based around civil liberties, but some of the assumptions they make are simply incorrect” he says.
“For example, the BBW campaign claims that all Covid passes are discriminatory, counterproductive and would lead to British citizens having to share personal health information with anyone in authority, from bouncers to bosses. However, there are already privacy-first digital wallets that give individuals the freedom to store and share anonymised medical documents, work credentials and other types of documentation quickly, simply, and securely.
“I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it" Shaw adds. "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority."
The subject of personal health data is under scrutiny in the UK at the moment, following controversial plans for the NHS to share patient data with third parties. These have been put on hold following public criticism.
Meanwhile a new report has found that the majority of the British public is willing to embrace digital healthcare tools such as apps and digital therapies prescribed by a trusted healthcare professional.
Shaw adds: “The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information."