Why do UAE patients head abroad for treatment?

An information gap between the public and available healthcare in the UAE is the prime reason behind potential patients looking to go abroad for medical treatment.

This was concluded after a joint study was conducted by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Statistics Center.

One of the reasons people travel abroad for their treatment is that patients do not know where to go or who to consult for the symptoms they are facing, explains Laila Al Jassmi, CEO Health Policy & Strategy Sector at Dubai Health Authority.

In many countries, patients rely on the 'family doctor' or general practitioner, who will diagnose the symptoms and refer the patient to the suited specialist.

"In the UAE, people tend to rely on what they hear from friends, or what they read online. They do not acquire the correct information," said Laila.

Often, people are ill-informed, thinks John T. Michael, Managing Director of Caduceus Lane, a healthcare marketing company. "There is a lot of wrong information out there. People talk with each other, find information online and think they know what they need."

When deciding for a treatment abroad patients usually look for the following information: the doctor's experience (23.4%), reputation of the medical center/hospital (21.0%), previous experience of the patient (16.6%), qualifications of the doctor (12.0%), the availability of advanced therapeutic technology (6.5%), availability of different treatment modalities (5.6%), and some other criteria.

However, the decision to choose for a particular country is made based on advice from others (66%), a welcoming environment (36%), previous visits to that country (30%), the cost of treatment being lower than in the UAE (26%) and the geographical approximation to the UAE (15%).

"Selecting the right doctor has become a highly emotional decision for residents in the UAE," thinks John. "Rather than being well-informed, people go for what they feel most comfortable with."

According to Laila it is important to reach out to potential patients in the UAE and Dubai Statistics Center recommends highlighting the availability of adequate information concerning the quality of the service the patient is looking for within the UAE, the most important aspects being the experience of the treating physician, reputation of the medical center or hospital and the previous experience of others.

"What many people do not know is that they can consult DHA for a recommendation," she adds.


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