- 41% of GCC residents go directly to a specialist when they fall ill, reveals survey commissioned by Arab Health 2018
- Only 34% of survey respondents in the GCC visit a general practitioner (GP)

A recent survey commissioned by Arab Health 2018 – the largest exhibition for healthcare and trade professionals in the MENA region – reveals that 41% of GCC residents go directly to a specialist when they fall ill, as opposed to visiting a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor.


A GP is a medical doctor who treats acute and chronic illnesses, provides preventive care and health education to patients, and refers patients with serious conditions to a specialist. Arab Health 2018 will welcome the first CME accredited Family Medicine conference for primary care practitioners interested in learning about the challenges and evidence-based medical interventions available.  


In countries with a long-standing healthcare system compared to the continuously developing industry in the GCC, patients tend to consult general practitioners as an initial touch point when feeling unwell and can visit the same family doctor over a long period of time for primary care. The survey revealed that there is a lack of awareness of the benefits of visiting a GP in the GCC, with only 34% of survey respondents visiting a general practitioner (GP).


“The GCC, particularly the UAE, has a large expat population. This can make it challenging for patients to create and maintain long-standing relationships with a primary healthcare provider where one doctor or clinic has visibility over the patient’s medical history and care. However, we recommend that residents find a trusted Family Physician who can then coordinate their medical care including offering a referral to a specialist when necessary,” commented Dr. Rahul Goyal, Consultant Family Medicine & Physician Clinical Informatics Lead, Mediclinic, Dubai, UAE.


When looking at the UAE results, the survey shows a clear distinction between healthcare habits of nationals and expats. Namely, 50% of Emirati nationals that were surveyed stated that they do not go directly to a specialist without consulting with a GP, while 33% opt to visit a specialist when they are ill. In comparison to this, an average of 36% of expat respondents residing in the UAE stated that they do not visit a GP when sick, and 28% go directly to a specialist. This suggests that the local population is more likely to visit a primary healthcare provider and have a family doctor than the expat population, highlighting a lack of awareness on the importance of establishing a relationship with a GP outside of their native countries.

“Family physicians possess unique attitudes, skills and knowledge, which qualify them to provide ongoing, comprehensive medical care to each member of the family. In addition to diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses, family physicians provide routine health screenings and counseling on lifestyle changes in an effort to prevent illnesses before they develop. The cornerstone of family medicine is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care that provides optimal medical care by looking at the whole person, rather than focusing on just one organ system. Family physician does every effort needed to communicate clearly with consulting specialists to coordinate care and minimize inconvenience to patients. Our goal is to provide the right care by the right physician at the right time,” commented Dr. Nahed Monsef, Director Health Affairs Department, Primary Health Care Services Sector, Dubai Health Authority (DHA).


Commenting on the Family Medicine conference, Katie Briggs, Executive Director, Arab Health 2018 said: “The 43rd edition of Arab Health introduces a range of new conferences that focus on topics in the healthcare sector that are relevant for today’s practitioners and patients. The Family Medicine conference will welcome an active panel of notable local and international experts in a wide range of medical areas, and will offer attendees a unique opportunity to engage in stimulating discussions and an opportunity to exchange experiences and expertise in this important field.”


The survey was conducted by YouGov in December 2017, with over 2,700 participants from across the GCC.

Learn more about Arab Health & register here

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Arab Health, primary care, Arab Health 2018, GCC residents, GCC region, self-diagnosis Primary care specialists urge GCC residents to consult general practitioners & avoid self-diagnosis