Interview: Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor
How is Dubai’s regulatory framework supporting the development and positioning of its health sector?
ESSA AL HAJ AL MAIDOOR: The goal is not for Dubai’s health sector to replace other well-reputed, global capitals such as the US and the UK, but rather to build its own, unique model. To do so, it is being designed with the cooperation of leading partners from across the globe. Thanks to better communication, the world has become a much smaller community. Dubai currently has around 30,000 practising doctors coming from around the world to establish themselves here, to participate in knowledge transfer programmes, as well as to gain and share experience. The success of January’s Arab Health 2013, held in Dubai, serves as a testament to the interest in this sector and the growing regional role Dubai can play in the health care industry.
When it comes to regulation, Dubai has a long-established framework. There are frequent reviews to ensure that regulations and legal processes keep pace with international standards. Dubai has also implemented the 24/7 Sheryan e-licensing system that allows health care professionals and facilities from across the globe to apply online for licences to practise within the emirate. Follow-up examinations are available in 300 locations around the world to further determine applicants’ suitability and qualifications.
To develop the market, we will continue to emphasise on having clear regulations and to implement them through the creation of supervisory bodies and full support systems. With respect to transparency, there are independent committees to assess the system with public and private entities held to the same standards.
What will be the role of medical tourism in Dubai’s greater health sector going forward?
AL MAIDOOR: Medical tourism is becoming a key segment in Dubai’s health care sector, and investors do not want to join this too late, which is why we expect greater investment in the future. The signs of this include organic growth and chains of hospitals arising from what were once single-hospital businesses. This growth has also seen some models expand to now include clinics and polyclinics, thus providing a greater range of services.
In terms of developing medical tourism in Dubai, there is significant potential given a high-quality infrastructure is already in place, including airlines, airports, highways, a metro, municipal services, water and electricity services, and a safe environment. As such, with the addition of medical education, there is a solid base to build on. The focus now is to attract talented medical professionals and internationally recognised hospitals to further build the market’s momentum and credibility. One of the main pillars of growth is reliability of the market and consumer trust in the system. As more patients begin to trust a market and consider it to offer a high-quality health services, it becomes a continuous promotion for the market.
To what extent will more opportunities open up for health-related public-private partnerships?
AL MAIDOOR: Compulsory insurance will help drive the private sector to boost its participation in this market by offering a dynamic mechanism for service providers. Additionally, public sector entities are looking to further cooperate with the private sector. For example, diagnostics centres is an area the government does not have to develop on its own, because there are already capable and experienced specialists present with whom to partner. Cooperation can also be extended to other services, such as catering, where there are opportunities to benefit from others’ experience and expertise, through sourcing of services. Rather than focusing on building up a large health care empire, the focus needs to be on developing the best service, regardless of who will deliver it. As such, the government is more inclined to enter partnerships with private sector participants than to enter into competition with them. Strong partnership opportunities alongside clear legislation and a new insurance scheme will encourage more health care-oriented investors to come to Dubai in the future.
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