Private expansion represents a critical means by which growing patient needs in Abu Dhabi can be met, although the government has played an important investment role in the rollout of new hospitals. Facilities including Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Healthpoint and Tawam Molecular Imaging Centre all stand as examples of successful partnerships between Mubadala Healthcare, the health care arm of the state-owned investment firm, Mubadala Development Company, and prestigious international providers. This has helped the emirate to retain medical revenues that would have gone abroad.

Medical Tourism

The outflow of medical revenues represents a loss for Abu Dhabi’s health care system, with the International Medical Travel Journal reporting that Emiratis travelling abroad for treatment spend about $250,000 per visit, while a 2010 report by the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that Emiratis spent Dh7.2bn ($1.96bn) annually on foreign treatment. According to a 2013 international patient care analysis from the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD), top destinations for patients sent abroad by the government for treatment include Germany, the US, the UK, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

An April 2014 Reuters article reported that 3200 foreigners travelled to Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic for treatment in 2012, of which 35% hailed from the Middle East. To reduce patient outflows, the emirate has taken several major steps to invest in building up domestic capacity, including the establishment of its flagship Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which is expected to reduce the need for patients to travel abroad for care.


Government investment has been a critical growth driver for private health care expansion in the emirate, and Mubadala Healthcare has played an instrumental role in creating a thriving sector. Mubadala Healthcare is one part of Mubadala Development Company, established to help the emirate build key social infrastructure and support economic diversification. The company’s current assets and services are designed to meet the growing need for specialised care, currently focusing on diabetes care and research, orthopaedics, spinal medicine, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, primary care, imaging and diagnostics, and telemedicine. The firm currently has nine facilities in its portfolio.

Mubadala worked extensively with American experts to develop Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, one of the most advanced medical campuses in the region, which is expected to start seeing patients in 2015 on Al Maryah Island. The project includes five centres of excellence in the following areas: heart and vascular, neurological, digestive disease, eye, and respiratory and critical care. In all, the medical campus will have 12 institutes, representing over 30 medical and surgical specialties. The hospital will include 364 beds, with the capacity to expand to 490 beds, across five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units.

In a March 2014 interview with Gulf News, Mubadala Healthcare’s executive director and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi board member, Suhail Mahmood Al Ansari, said the establishment of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi will allow the emirate to provide speciality care that had previously been sought internationally. “For the Emirates, leaving to seek high-quality and specialised treatment has been a reality for some patients. However, with the creation of more advanced health care facilities, especially that of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which will offer more specialised treatments, it will be possible to reverse this trend,” he told OBG.

The project could also reduce some of the emirate’s health care human resource gaps. Dr Marc Harrison, CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, told OBG, “We had more than 8000 applicants for 175 doctor positions and, ultimately, when you take into consideration all the supporting roles required, by the time we open our doors we will have roughly 3000 employees from over 50 nationalities. With so many cultures and different practices employed, it is very important that we implement a universal or standardised system of operations.”