The UAE healthcare sector is unique. In 2022, the country received more than 40 per cent of all applications from health professionals seeking to be licensed in the GCC despite only making up 17 per cent of the GCC’s population. How is this possible?
Currently, we have a situation whereby a significant demand for medical professionals is being met by a corresponding desire for such professionals to live and work in the UAE. Some key factors that we believe are contributing to this include:
- Ongoing UAE government support and investment in driving the growth and success of the healthcare industry.
- Strong and growing demand in several niche healthcare segments is driving additional investment in new facilities and expansion of the facilities already in operation.
- Shortages in the supply of certain medical services in other proximate countries, which is driving the growth of medical tourism in the UAE due to its world-class facilities and specialised health services.
- The UAE’s reputation as a safe country, combined with dynamic visa developments, is attracting healthcare professionals.
As an identified critical sector, the UAE Government has highlighted access to high-quality healthcare as a core pillar of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A driving force in the sector’s expansion has been increased investment by government bodies and private organisations combined with a focus on innovation.
The UAE has become an obvious strategic focus of private healthcare organisations looking for investment opportunities and growth in the region. As a result, the UAE has seen significant investment in the health sector, driven by strong consumer demand for health services, especially in niche segments such as mental health, women and children, and primary care, combined with the relative ease of establishing and expanding in the UAE. Such investment is essential to enhance the country’s capabilities in meeting the ever-increasing demand for healthcare services and will enable a more effective, scalable, and comprehensive healthcare system for the UAE’s residents and visitors, as well as a healthy competitive landscape that fosters growth.
The UAE has also become a hub for healthcare innovation in the region. There are several premier healthcare conferences and trade events, which enable ideas, partnerships, innovations, and collaborations throughout the healthcare industry, serving as a further catalyst for growth and development. In 2023, for example, Arab Health in Dubai had over 3,300 exhibitors, and the event attracted more than 63,000 healthcare professionals.
All of this focus and investment is paying off. According to World Population Review, the UAE held the top rank among all GCC countries for healthcare using the Legatum Prosperity Index and ranked in the top 50 globally. In addition to dedicated healthcare hubs, the UAE’s private and public hospitals and clinics feature state-of-the-art technology, facilities, and specialised treatment centres that provide dedicated services, such as fertility treatment and orthopaedic centres. This not only serves strong domestic demand but also makes the UAE an extremely attractive medical tourism destination.
To fuel and sustain the growth in the industry, the UAE healthcare sector must attract and retain a significant number of medical professionals from countries around the world, which it is achieving based on the application data. This is not purely because the UAE is seen as a safe, inclusive country with a very high quality of life for expat professionals. It is also due to the UAE’s continuing commitment to making it easier for expatriate professionals to obtain visas, migrate and settle in the UAE. The hugely successful Golden Visa scheme is just one of the many initiatives that are helping achieve this.
What’s next for UAE healthcare?
The UAE’s proven agile, swift approach to technological change will only strengthen its global position in the healthcare market and, ultimately the effectiveness of patient care. Access to health screenings, vaccinations, and healthy lifestyle programmes are all part of the current fledgling preventative care landscape.
Telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and health applications to continuously track health and lifestyle choices are already popular among certain demographics.
As Artificial Intelligence becomes more advanced and accepted, personalised prevention plans will interface with more accurate data analysis to identify trends and patterns in disease and illness prevention, resulting in a 24/7 wellness support, medtech-based ecosystem becoming an integral part of the industry and people’s daily lives.
These advances in healthcare result in the “patient first” approach, no longer only starting when a person walks through a medical facility door. Instead, the patient will have access to healthcare professionals (real and virtual) around the clock, based on their needs, for full spectrum preventative, illness and medical care.
One of the key drivers of the ongoing innovation and growth in the UAE healthcare sector will be securing high-quality, qualified medical professionals to support the rapid advancements in consumer demands and technology.
As a partner for government bodies, we look forward to continuing to support the UAE Government to deliver services that are critical to achieving these outcomes, including the verification of such medical professionals’ credentials as they seek employment, in this globally unique UAE healthcare sector.
Tony Fargher is the CFO of The DataFlow Group
This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.