HealthManagement, Volume 14 - Issue 4, 2014

Key Points

• The UAE is one of the most developed healthcare markets in the GCC

• Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is the world’s largest healthcare free zone

• Education and research are an integral element of DHCC’s operations

• Continued investment will ensure phase 2, which includes wellness-focused projects

• DHCC was awarded CPQ standards accreditation by the ISQua in January 2014

The UAE is one of the most developed healthcare markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with robust infrastructure and the second highest per capita healthcare expenditure in the region. The per capita healthcare spend stood at US$ 1,640 (€1,280) in 2011, which is more than twice that of Saudi Arabia (Alpen Capital 2014). With a growing incidence of lifestyle diseases and rising income level, the per capita spend in the nation, which rose at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1 percent between 2006 and 2011, is expected to expand further (Alpen Capital 2014).


The growing per capita expenditure on healthcare has not been the only reason for the thriving sector in the country. Dubai, recently ranked by Forbes among the world's top 10 most influential cities, has been, for years, seeing double digit growth in the number of inbound tourists, reaching over 11 million in 2013 (Thomas 2014) according to Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). The Dubai government is maximising the benefits from its tourist inflow, and is increasingly bolstering its healthcare offering to cater to medical tourists.


To meet the local and regional demand for high-quality, patient-centered healthcare, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) was launched in 2002. DHCC is the world’s largest healthcare free zone, and has grown in reputation over the past decade to become the region’s choice of health and wellness for specialised clinical care and a host of allied services.


Located in the heart of Dubai, DHCC comprises two phases. Phase 1, dedicated to healthcare and medical education, covers 4.1 million square feet. Phase 2, which is dedicated to wellness, will cover 19 million square feet, and is currently being developed.


DHCC, overseen by the Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA) its governing body and regulator, operates in Healthcare, Education and Research, Investment and Regulatory.



Today, DHCC is home to more than 120 medical facilities including JCI-accredited hospitals, outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with more than 4,000 licensed professionals. It also has 180 non-clinical facilities including healthcare consultancy, clinical research organisations, and patient education services.


In the first half of 2014, patient visits to DHCC crossed 600,000, suggesting 20 percent annual growth in visits from the one million recorded in 2013; visits expected to reach 1.2 million by year end.


Of DHCC patients, roughly 15 percent are medical tourists. The majority represented by patients from GCC, Arab World, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, seeking procedures, treatments or tests in infertility, cosmetic, dental, cardiac, and orthopaedic.


Dubai has prioritised medical tourism as a key driver of economic growth in the run up to 2020.


Dubai is aiming to attract 20 million tourists as per Dubai Vision 2020, with an increasing percentage of these visitors utilising healthcare services.


DHCC released a survey in August using respondents from its medical facilities. The data collected represented a six-month period, beginning January 2014. (The sample size was weighted for facilities that offer clinical services so that it was representative of medical tourism profile.)


According to the results, the majority of physicians believe that medical tourists come to Dubai for quality of care (80 percent) and experienced physicians (61 percent), closely followed by specialist treatments (48 percent) available and geographic proximity (36 percent).


Education and Research

Education is an integral element of DHCC’s operations. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center (MBR- AMC) is a world-class beacon for medical education and research.


The Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center offers clinical training programmes, postgraduate programmes and CME courses. It has collaborations with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSE), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and American Heart Association, among other healthcare and academic institutions.


The academic complex is home to Al Maktoum Medical Library (AMML), and the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Center (KHMSC). The MBR-AMC also oversees the Dubai College of Dental Medicine (DCDM), which offers postgraduate diplomas in periodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry, and oral surgery in collaboration with Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSE)


KHMSC is the first comprehensive clinical simulation training centre in the region and features advanced technology including unique highfidelity patient simulators. It facilitates hands-on training for both healthcare professionals and students in a simulated, risk-free environment. This year, 612 multidisciplinary healthcare professionals from 22 hospitals were trained from January to June, bringing the total number of trainees to 1,400 since the centre’s opening in November 2012. Courses offered include respiratory, cardiology, diabetes management, anaesthesiology and neonatology.


MBR-AMC supports the medical community at Dubai Healthcare City by providing access to quality and authoritative information resources through its Al Maktoum Medical Library, which provides more than 2,000 print titles, more than 12,000 e-journals and e-books, and more than 15 medical databases.


MBR-AMC also supports the sharing of knowledge and expertise in the healthcare industry by catering to medical education events through its auditorium, education suites, conference centers and lecture halls.


In September this year, DHCC announced the setting up of the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRUMHS), its first medical university, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid University Hospital, which will be developed in parallel. The Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences will offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees for both Emiratis and expatriates, welcoming its first batch of undergraduate medical students in September 2015.


The first phase of the project will include two colleges - the Dubai College of Dental Medicine (DCDM) which is already established and the College of Medicine for undergraduate medical students.



DHCC offers medical and healthcare providers with comprehensive solutions to set up operations and avail of free zone benefits. Investors have access to a variety of products including clinical, commercial, retail, business centre and freehold land.


The integrated healthcare free zone currently houses some of the worldleading healthcare providers from across the globe. The main buildings at DHCC’s of Phase I are 96 percent occupied as of June 2014, and demand on space is on the rise. In the first half of 2014, DHCC attracted nine new medical institutions, with five existing business partners expanding their presence significantly. In January, Mediclinic City Hospital announced its expansion, which will have an advanced oncology unit set to further increase capacity in cancer care and to provide the latest diagnostic technology.


Work on DHCC’s Phase 2 is ongoing, and a few projects include a wellness luxury hotel and an International Scientific School Educational project that will introduce pre-medical curricula at school level - the first of its kind in the region. The school project is led by one of the most internationally recognised education institutions.



Regulation and licensure are handled by the Center for Healthcare Planning and Quality (CPQ), an independent regulator overseen by Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA), the governing body and regulator of Dubai Healthcare City.


The CPQ was established to set and maintain international best practice in healthcare delivery and patient care at Dubai Healthcare City.


In January 2014, DHCC announced that ISQua, a global leader in assessing the standards in healthcare safety and quality, and the only organisation to 'accredit the accreditors', awarded CPQ the 2nd Edition of the CPQ Outpatient Clinic Quality Standards accreditation, valid from May 2013 to April 2017. Maintenance of this award depends on the submission to ISQua of two progress reports, one at 12 months post survey and the second at 30 months post survey.


In an effort to further strengthen its regulatory standards, Dubai Healthcare City announced in September the introduction of an independent Appeals Board for healthcare professionals and healthcare operators.


This marks a milestone for DHCC’s regulatory framework as healthcare professionals or healthcare operators in the Dubai Healthcare City can now appeal against decisions relating to licensing or complaints.


A physician can now file a valid appeal by supporting his/her notice of appeal with new evidence, which was not considered at the initial hearing and demonstrating that there is a clear possibility that the initial decision was unreasonable or unfair. An appeal may also be filed if it is supported by any evidence, which was not available at the time the original ruling against the professional was made.


The Board comprises leading healthcare and legal experts: Dr Guy Fish, Senior Vice President at Fletcher Spaght, US, who is the current Chairman of the Board; Melanie Ho, Deputy Head of the Specialist & Private Client Dispute Practice, Wong Partnership, Singapore; Dr Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Chairman, Institute of Cardiac Sciences at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE; and Dr Matthew Lohn, Senior Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse, UK.


A Region of Opportunity

Dubai, already the fifth most visited city in the world (MasterCard 2014), is racing ahead as a global hub for healthcare and wellness. It benefits from its location, and unique social fabric which is constructed with a multicultural community and mix of vacationing, living and business environments. It offers the widest of attractions from luxury urban spots to rugged mountains and tranquil beaches – all connected by state-of-the- art infrastructure and transport. In proximity, Dubai is connected to over a third of the world’s population within four hours’ flight, and twothirds within an eight-hour flight.


To contextualise its growth potential, projected figures are: the MENA healthcare market is likely to be worth $144 billion (€112 billion) by 2020, with the GCC accounting for $69 billion (€54 billion) (Al Masah Capital 2014). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the region's population would cross the 50 million mark by 2020, providing impetus to the consumption of healthcare services. Research by private management advisory and consultancy firm, Falak Consulting, suggests that the number of people aged more than 65 years old, who are likely to spend more money on common ailments like heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes, is forecast to double by 2020 (Maceda 2014). In addition, the region’s healthcare industry will benefit from increased medical insurance penetration as relevant GCC government laws are put into effect in the coming years.


Al Masah Capital (2014) MENA healthcare sector. [Accessed: 6 October 2014] Available from


Alpen Capital (2014) GCC healthcare sector report [Accessed: 6 October 2014] Available from


Maceda C (2014) GCC health care market to reach $56 billion. Gulf News, 24 June. [Accessed: 6 October 2014] Available from GulfNews:


MasterCard (2014) Global Destination Cities Index

[Accessed: 6 October 2014] Available from


Thomas B. (2014) Dubai hotels welcome 11 million guests in 2013. Arabian Business, 4 March. [Accessed: 6 October 2014] Available