Interview with Dr Raza Siddiqui, Group CEO Arabian Healthcare Group and Executive Director at RAK Hospital, Ras Al Khaimah

As UAE is aiming high with a target of half a million international medical tourists by 2020 there is a constant need to upgrade medical facilities to meet the demand.

To achieve this the UAE government's healthcare strategy encompasses steady and long-term measures to remain equipped. Constant innovations, technological advancements, and increased human resource is the need of the hour, says Dr Raza Siddiqui, Group CEO Arabian Healthcare Group and Executive Director at RAK Hospital, Ras Al Khaimah.

When Dr Siddiqui began as the Executive Director of RAK Hospital in 2007, he was given the task of placing the newly-conceived institution on the UAE medical tourism map, while at the same time help to propel the UAE as a pioneer in global medical tourism. During the 10 years of the hospital, Dr Siddiqui has facilitated several collaborations, converging a world-class team of doctors across various specialties, and bringing to the UAE doorstep expertise that has been instrumental in promoting medical tourism in the country.

The UAE is steadily gaining foothold as a global medical tourism hub. What are the treatments offered here that draw international patients to the UAE?

Over the years, the UAE government has systematically created opportunities for the country’s healthcare industry to cement its position as medical tourism hub, both in the Middle East region and globally. Dubai, for example, was ranked 16th as the preferred destination for medical tourism in the 2016-17 report of Medical Tourism Index while Abu Dhabi ranked 25th. We have seen a steady flow of patients from as far as Russia and China in the East and European countries in the West, thanks to world class medical facilities, clinical innovations, a good mix of highly qualified medical practitioners, and strong and reliable connectivity across the globe.

The UAE is particularly known for its treatments in orthopaedics, ophthalmology, dental procedures, dermatology, preventive medicine, skin care, bariatric and plastic surgery, non-invasive procedures and fertility treatments.

The UAE is aiming to target half a million international medical tourists by 2020. What are the areas that the country should focus on to further boost medical tourism?

The steady rise in statistical data have proven that the country is already on the right track. However, I believe that as the way forward, we need to focus on bringing in more qualified and experienced human resources to keep up with the increasing demand. Currently, there are almost 5000 doctors in the UAE, who speak more than 40 languages, but with the forecast of over 500,000 medical tourists to enter the country by 2020, the number of medical practitioners will have to grow as well. The recent agreement between Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) and the Medical Tourism Association (MTA), which plans to the recruit best physicians to work in the emirate on a rotating basis is an example of that.

Capacity is another area that we need to focus on. A recent news report stated that depending on various factors, the demand for hospital beds could rise to 14,000 by 2020, and this is something hospitals across the country need to take into consideration now in order to meet the demand.

Many hospitals in the UAE are promoting medical tourism. How does RAK Hospital distinguish itself from others?

The biggest distinguishing factor for RAK Hospital is the manner in which we perceive the healthcare industry. We bring to the table a perfect blend of hospital facilities and hospitality environment resulting in a unique patient experience that few healthcare institutions offer. We not only have technological expertise on par with the West, but we are constantly introducing innovative concepts to bring the best available primary, tertiary and surgical care to our patients. With the finger on the industry pulse, we’re also constantly reinforcing our medical team with the best possible human resources.  Partnering with Sonnenhof Swiss Health Ltd, a leading Switzerland-based healthcare group, the hospital includes state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities, surgical programmes, operation theatres, cardiac labs, an eye care unit, a stroke unit and rehabilitation programmes. The top-notch medical care ensures that visitors get the same treatment they would in any developed country, but at a lower cost.

The hospital has also forged steady relations with international airlines and leading hospitality players to create cost-effective healthcare packages for foreign medical tourists. It further offers complimentary concierge and valet services, limousine pickup and drop for out of town patients and guests, and also organises excursions and tours. In-room dining with 24-hour kitchen and coffee shop, ala-carte menus, on-demand entertainment services and complimentary Wi-Fi continues to reinforce a hotel-like feel, creating a relaxing and soothing environment for patient and their families.

Among its many unique features, the hospital also offers spa treatments which includes facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, weight-loss programmes and other related services. The top-of-the-line spa is open to patients, as well as their families and is particularly beneficial to those recovering from bone/joint injuries.

Moreover, with the view to broaden its reach, RAK hospital has representative offices in several countries which include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Oman and Afghanistan. It also has plans of opening offices in Russia, Pakistan and Uganda

How is RAK Hospital contributing to the growth of the UAE medical tourism industry?

In over a decade of its existence, RAK Hospital has seen a steady flow of medical tourists, with health issues related to coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass and cosmetic surgery, gallbladder, ruptured colon, and serveral gynaecological and urological procedures.

Over the years, RAK Hospital has introduced a number of surgical procedures in the UAE –stem cell therapy, total knee replacements and complicated cardiac and neuro procedures– at a far lower cost, providing an easier option for patients in the Middle East and Africa for diagnosis, surgeries and follow ups. For example, it is the first hospital in the UAE to introduce gyroscope-based technology for a more accurate alignment in knee replacement surgery.

At the same time, the hospital has represented UAE on international platforms to successfully generate medical tourism into the country. Moreover, it has also gained a reputation of successfully handling critical emergency surgical cases flown into UAE, further cementing UAE on the medical tourism map.

What is RAK Hospital bringing to the Arab Health platform this year?

As always, RAK Hospital will be focusing on medical tourism and our main aim is to introduce specialist healthcare facilities in the UAE. For example, last year, we announced the launch of Stem Cell Therapy for treatment of arthritis and other joint problems by knee regenerative and reconstruction specialist Dr William Andrew Hodge.

What are the future plans for RAK Hospital? What are the areas that it will focus on in the next few years?

Capacity is one area that we’re focusing on and we will definitely be increasing the number of beds in the near future. But in general, our focus will be on generating medical tourism and coming up with innovative measures to further improve patient care for both UAE residents and international patients.

RAK Hospital has been associated with Arab Health for several years now. What is the impact of this event on the healthcare industry in the UAE and the wider MENA region?

Arab Health has been a fundamental part of the global healthcare industry since its inception. This is a platform that brings together the greatest medical human resources, clinical acumen and technology under one roof. For the UAE, which hosts healthcare institutions from across the world, the event is an extremely successful way to make their presence felt, cross borders, share ideas and introduce new medical advancements in the Middle East and African regions in particular and the world in general.

What sort of opportunities does Arab Health provide to the healthcare and trade professionals across the Middle East?

With a rich reservoir of over 4000 companies representing over 160 countries, Arab Health is an ideal platform to gain industry insights and to stay abreast with the latest developments in the industry. The opportunities are many for every sector related to healthcare since the wide market and easy accessibility allows smoother passage to formulate relationships and develop businesses successfully.

27 - 30 January 2020