Medical tourism to get fillip

by Asma Ali Zain ,  Khaleej Times | 2008-07-18

The time is right for the UAE to make forays into the fledgling global medical tourism industry as experts say that the country has an edge over 'perception of destination' as compared to other countries.

According to industry experts, the global medical tourism industry is still young but has brighter chances of growth as demand for healthcare is steeply increasing worldwide.

The UAE-based Chief Strategic Officer of Medical Tourism Association, USA, Dr Prem Jagyasi, says several factors need to be considered before any country decides to promote medical tourism, including a thorough analysis of local healthcare infrastructure.

'Only the over-capacity services should be promoted for international patients leaving the first choice easy healthcare access for residents. In this case, the UAE can start promoting only a few services in medical tourism, but not without proper study and analysis,' he explains.

As per the industry rules, the quality of care and perception of destination play an important role.

'The UAE already has an edge over perception of destination as compared to other competitors. Moreover, the recent government decision on compulsory health cover for residents and visitors alike has sparked a healthy competition for better quality in medical services. I think it is an ideal time for the UAE to initiate their presence in global market,' he explained.

A thorough study on over-capacity services and its promotion is vital before the local industry is opened up.

'Only certain services should be promoted through a particular organisation but this needs proper evaluation,' says Dr Jagyasi, adding that the important step would be to develop and create an umbrella (council) in which all other government, semi-government and private health authorities would promote services as one brand.

'It is important for the UAE to create a one brand,' he emphasises.

Identifying a target market is an important factor as each geographic target market has different factors.

'The UAE needs to evaluate and penetrate most potential target markets through strong marketing strategies. Understanding of international health insurance and legal issues is also important,' says Dr Jagyasi.

Treatment in UAE cheaper than in US, UK

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