Factors like rapid population growth, an expanding middle class, increased life expectancy rates and a government focus on the expansion of healthcare (i.e. turning the country into a medical tourism hub for the Middle East) all contribute to the promising healthcare market landscape in the UAE.
Another key driver of the healthcare market is the expansion of mandatory health insurance and the increased presence of health insurers both foreign and national. Emirates like Abu Dhabi and Dubai already have mandatory health insurance policies and plans are being made to expand this practice to the other Emirates as well.
In terms of insurance, the market remains fragmented with each emirate having its own health insurance legislation.
The UAE government is taking measures to introduce programs and incentives to encourage private sector growth, optimize current operations, and leverage technology where possible.
Public/private partnerships (PPP’s)
The healthcare landscape in the UAE is relatively new and still in a phase of growth and evolution. In an effort to continue this rapid expansion and take healthcare to the next level, the government is actively encouraging public/private partnerships. PPP’s are encouraged and well subsidized with the following goals in mind:
- Conserving government resources by using private capital for infrastructure development.
- Improving quality and efficiency by accessing private sector expertise and experience.
- Promoting technology transfer and capacity building.
- Risk sharing.
- Helping government services operate competitively with the private sector.
Challenges and Opportunities
The following areas present excellent opportunities for collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Increasing need for Specialty Hospitals and Clinics
As demographics change in the UAE (e.g. increased life expectancy, higher awareness of the importance of health and increases in lifestyle or chronic diseases), so do the population’s needs, from a healthcare point of view. There is currently of shortage of hospitals and clinics that offer specialized care for: Chronic diseases, genetic disorders, oncology and trauma.
Opportunities exist for the private sector to fill the demand gaps in these areas: Sharing expertise, investing, providing the necessary medical equipment, etc.
Medical Tourism Related Equipment
The government is committed to establishing the UAE as the medical tourism hub for the Middle East. The most coveted services include: Minor plastic surgery, dental and oral surgery, oncology and joint replacement surgeries.
As demand for these services increases, there will be ample opportunity public/private partnerships which are encouraged and subsidized by the government.
Long Term Care Services
Demand is increasing for services related to: Geriatric care, Alzheimer’s, dementia and rehabilitation.
Opportunities exist for the private sector to fill the demand gaps in these areas: Sharing expertise, investing, providing the necessary medical equipment etc.
Although the government is investing in the healthcare sector, they are also looking into how to reduce costs and spend more efficiently (e.g. cutting costs where possible). Hospital bed shortages are also an issue in the UAE.
One of the goals to deal with both these challenges is to increase capabilities in terms of ambulatory care for the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Growing demand in this area will bring about a wide array of opportunities for investors and providers of the related equipment.
Health insurance is currently mandatory in the Abu Dhabi and Dubai and there are plans to extend this policy to include Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. This will increase the opportunities for private insurers and it will further increase the demand for specialized services.
Opportunities also exist for healthcare software companies which will benefit greatly from the expansion efforts of the UAE government. The following areas have a specially high growth potential: Cardiology applications, telemedicine and case mix management systems.
For further quantitative information on the UAE’s healthcare system and the macroeconomic climate, please look into our Business intelligence platform or order the TforG Deep Dive report for the UAE containing volumes of 620 surgical procedures in 13 specialisms.