A recent KPMG report ranking global medical tourism destinations placed Dubai at sixth and Abu Dhabi at eighth, demonstrating the region’s wide appeal. Another study by Iva Bulatovic and Katia Iankova exploring the ‘Barriers to Medical Tourism’ found that the top destinations around the world are currently Canada, Singapore, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Israel, India, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE is consistently highly ranked for inbound medical tourism and they have achieved this, in part, by attracting global talent while also nurturing local medical expertise. Whatsmore, unlike other medical tourism destinations, the UAE is simultaneously regarded as a trusted destination for procedures and is also a desirable destination for post-treatment recovery. This twin appeal, plus the ongoing investment in healthcare suggest the region is going to further embrace its appeal as a global medical hotspot in 2022. This article considers the trajectory of UAE healthcare in 2022 and considers how medical professionals can make the most of the year ahead.
First of all, it’s worth considering some of the progress made so far and looking at which factors led the UAE to this place. At the same time, we should factor in how this progress has come at a cost to some of the healthcare providers already practising in the region. Progress for the UAE has been rapid. Considering that it was as recently as April 2007 that the UAE unveiled the first national development strategy aimed at making it a world leader, the government have been both fast and decisive. This centralised and visionary planning was repeated more recently with a focus on healthcare. In 2016 Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council approved the Dubai 2021 plan that established a new healthcare strategy. The strategy proposed “transforming Dubai into a leading healthcare destination by fostering innovative and integrated care models and by enhancing community engagement”.
However, it is the rapid growth and the region’s reputation for luxury that has complicated matters. By creating a competitive healthcare marketplace the UAE has helped establish the region as a world leader in healthcare but has also created an environment where doctors have to fight hard for every patient. The Bulatovic paper highlighted how this model has created some barriers to international patients. The UAE is renowned as a luxury destination and has a perception as a playground for the super-rich. A wealth of medical professionals combined with the perception of elitism are at odds with each other. Physicians have to work harder to prove they are global leading doctors with skills and expertise to match the perception. Patients searching for more information can overcome the misperception that healthcare is beyond their means but they are still left searching for the one doctor that they have faith can treat them.
Doctors simultaneously have to embrace technology, modern therapeutic tools and communicate this effectively to potential patients. Dr Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman & MD Aster DM Healthcare believes the region is on track to become the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world. He recently told GCC Business news: “With the UAE’s vision of a digital-first economy, we expect the healthcare sector in the UAE to see considerable expenditure in digital transformation, technology and AI- and IoT-based solutions.” Adding that he believes “There is also an opportunity to start single-speciality specialized centres for attracting medical tourism to the country.”
From a healthcare culture perspective, the use of preventative monitoring technologies is likely to take off in 2022. Manal Taryam, CEO of the Dubai Health Authority’s Primary Healthcare unit told Mobi Health News: “We are keen to use the latest health technologies with an aim to better both healthcare management and patient-centred care. Over the last few years, we have focused on home patient monitoring, especially for elderly patients.”
While doctors can embrace all the technologies and tools 2022 has for them, the most important part of their business will remain how they market and communicate their services to an international audience. Patients considering medical tourism require higher levels of confidence and faith than patients seeking domestic treatments. They are increasingly turning to the internet in search of information. Online reviews have been around for decades, but only in the last few years has there been a growth in safe and secure platforms that can collect and share verified patient reviews. In turn, these reviews are a powerful tool for enabling trust and helping patients take action. Figures show that 79% of patients claim to trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
In 2022, the use of such reviews in the UAE is expected to become more commonplace. The question becomes: How will the ubiquity of online healthcare reviews impact doctors and physicians? First of all, doctors need to realise that reviews are here to stay and can have a positive impact on their medical practice. Analysis shows that 5% of all Google searches are now health-related and 94% of patients are using reviews to evaluate potential providers.
For online search visibility, the impact of online reviews is massive. In the 2021 Google Search algorithm update, the emphasis shifted towards rich content such as written reviews rather than just star ratings. Of course, the star rating is still hugely influential with 49 per cent of patients expecting to see four stars or higher before considering a product or service. But Google now recognises that reviews with a star rating are being closely scrutinised: 82% of all patients read the accompanying reviews, with that figure rising to 93% for patients between the ages of 35 and 54. In addition to increasing online visibility, written reviews can alter a patient’s perception of the cost of treatment. Five-star reviews and positive reviews help patients evaluate treatment in the UAE. recognise that the listed treatments are good value for money. In turn, this shift can lead to them being prepared to spend more. Research shows that people spend around 31% more when a business has five stars and as few as five glowing reviews can increase purchases or bookings by 270%.
Doctors in the UAE want to stay ahead of the curve, attract international patients and become the very best in their field. But all of this is ineffective if the patients themselves aren’t communicating the skills, expertise and specialisms online. Doctors need to foster an online environment in 2022 where patients can write accounts of their experiences to engage and attract more patients.
Doctify is the leading global platform for verified medical reviews and can be trusted to deliver reliable information to millions of patients each year. Reviews are verified but anonymous, inviting honest and constructive feedback.
To start building your own verified reviews online and increase your visibility to patients searching for your services, create a professional profile on Doctify. Representing over 19,000 individual specialists, Doctify provides a dedicated review platform built with medical professionals in mind. Building and sharing verified reviews is easy, and a third party endorsement engenders trust amongst your prospective patients.
To learn more about Doctify’s services or to find out how else they can help you contact the Doctify team today.