UAE: Balancing Quality and Accessibility in Healthcare

26 Jul 2021   |  UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has expressed its plan to pave building blocks for a strong healthcare sector. As aligned with the country's Vision 2021, UAE will ensure accredited public and private hospitals provide international quality standards for all stakeholders.

Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

UAE has mandated the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) to manage the emergency response system as the UAE healthcare strategy and the first alert of the new COVID-19 outbreak and prepare the entire healthcare system with protocols to handle the crisis efficiently.

The approach is to resolve risk communication and execute a detailed awareness campaign during the pandemic.

Smart Healthcare Transformation

Healthcare Transformation

Since late 2020, the gulf country has also encouraged smart healthcare technology innovations by increasing the sector's spending. Healthcare providers were to undergo a four-step process to transform digitally: namely, modernizing IT infrastructure, maintaining cloud access, launching mobile applications, and enhancing cybersecurity systems.

The UAE healthcare market is rapidly growing. This year, the sector expects to rise to USD 39.4 billion due to the emerging population growth with increasing life expectancy. The average life expectancy of UAE citizens is currently 79.4 years.

Other than the population growth, problematic lifestyle habits also play an essential role in the sector's development. With 66 percent of the adult population carrying excess weight, 31.7 percent of adult UAE citizens are considered obese.

Moreover, over 900,000 UAE adults are active smokers. Smoking accounts for USD 569 million in healthcare costs and amounts to one in eight deaths among men in the country.

Increasing Cost of Healthcare Services in UAE

The increasing demand for healthcare services has resulted in issues to contain costs. The average price of healthcare services is reported to increase at a 15 percent rate yearly, aside from its already comparatively expensive rate than neighboring countries.

Due to this issue, a study from King's College Hospital, London, has shown that the sector loses around USD 1 billion every year from identity fraud by patients and brand-name over-prescribing by doctors.

In the first half of 2021, medical plans experienced an increase of 20 percent year-on-year due to the high demand as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issue results from the health authorities' new regulation to tighten the number of medicines available to regular healthcare insurance in UAE, requiring residents to trade up their existing insurance plans to access adequate medication.

As the government seeks to accelerate recovery in medical tourism to reach a CAGR growth rate of 17.1 percent in 2025, the growth of both public and private hospitals are pinned to keep up with the digital transformation continuously.

So far, the development is suspected to be driven by telehealth and teleradiology services across the country. People are demanding mobile healthcare services to cater to the new-normal norms and stay-at-home culture.

However, although the strategy to create an international quality of healthcare services seems to be going as planned, the country needs to ensure that their citizens can access medical services without burden, instead of focusing solely on enhancing healthcare standards.

Businesses in UAE face risks of increasing insurance spendings for their employees as the costs remain at unprecedented growth.

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