Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, epitomizes the government-led model of medical tourism because the government has led investment in a completely new globally focused health care economy. Moreover, Dubai is widely considered one of the Middle East’s most attractive tourist destinations for shopping, nightlife and site-seeing. It is the eighth most visited city in the world. Tourism provides a large part of its economy since the emirate has very little oil. It has the world’s largest mall, which attracts shoppers from India, Europe, China and the Middle East. Dubai International Airport is the sixth largest in the world for international travelers.
Although in its early stages, Dubai Health Care City (DHCC) is already developing a global presence. With so little oil, Dubai government leaders realized long ago that its economy had to be built on services, so they became very successful at economic development. Dubai is the most westernized city in the Middle East. The emirate is governed by Islam, but it is more liberal in its interpretations. The government has developed a robust financial services, real estate and tourism economy, and its past success led to its sophisticated approach to medical tourism.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is credited with creating the vision for DHCC, a massive complex for delivering medical care, research and education (Dubai Healthcare City). Therefore, some of its strategic relationships are: Harvard Medical International, Mayo Clinic and Boston University Institute for Dental Research. The complex includes a JCI-accredited medical center, a medical school, a nursing school and a research facility. Under construction is the Wellness Community, which will deliver all aspects of alternative therapies, sports medicine, cosmetic services, spas and luxury hotels. It is classed as a “health care free zone,” which means that providers pay no taxes or customs duties.
As Dubai has extensive experience with real estate developments and malls, it is logical that DHCC would use a similar approach. It provides facilities in which 1,200 professionals practice within eighty different clinics. Some of the types of medical care they address are: cardiology, chiropractic, dentistry, dermatology, ENT, endocrinology, family medicine, gastroenterology, general surgery, immunology, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics, ophthalmology, orthopedic, pediatrics, physical therapy, plastic surgery, radiology, and urology.
Although Dubai Health Care City is still being built, several advantages can be noted (Wikipedia). It offers world-class medical care and is located nearby European and Asian population centers. This lessens travel time to receive care. In addition, DHCC has formed partnerships with global brands: Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Moorfields Eye Hospital, German Heart Centre, Novartis, Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson and others. It has achieved accreditation by JCI, and it is in the process of being accredited by Trent Accreditation Scheme (UK) and ACHSI.
Although there is very little price information available, reviewing documents of DHCC and its providers show that it is a high cost, high quality model of medical tourism, more similar to Switzerland or the U.S. than India or Thailand. Its relatively high costs could be a disadvantage for middle class clientele.
Many of the hospitals and clinics in Dubai are backed or run by global brands, but the clinics themselves are very new, which adds uncertainty compared with other sites that have been operational for several years or more.
The hospitals and clinics have poor information available, which may be because the clinics are not being marketed to the same audience as most of the other sites in this study; it may also be due to an Islamic sense of discretion. It is much more difficult to discover information about services.
Cost information for the clinics at DHCC was not available. Analyzing available information from several clinic websites, the approach is very different from other medical tourism destinations included in this study. For example, Isis – The French Clinic specializes in child health care; German Clinic specializes in obstetrics, gynecology and adolescent medicine; Mayo Clinic provides an office to intake Middle East patients for U.S. medical tourism. It provides U.S. and European institutions with the opportunity to serve wealthy Middle East clients on location rather than forcing them to come to the U.S. or Europe.